Last week I had the honor of participating at the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Education Leadership Program in Doha, a program that we implement together with the International Association of University Presidents. This program, now in its third year, brings together newly-appointed university presidents, rectors and vice chancellors from developing countries and prepares them to more effectively lead their institutions. This year’s participants came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Iraq, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Palestine, Tanzania, Tunisia, and the Ukraine. They all face common challenges: how to build the capacity of their teaching staff, how to expand access to women, how to develop programs that meet the demands of the job market and that support sustainable national development, and how to operate in fiscal austerity. And some are dealing with the aftermath of war or conflict, and the toll it took on their students and staff.
Over the past twelve months, IIE has been visited by education officials from nearly all of the countries undergoing transformation because of the so-called Arab/Asian Spring. Each has asked similar questions about access to U.S. higher education. There is an urgent need to provide education for an entire generation (or two) that has been largely isolated. Questions abound about how to apply to U.S. colleges and universities, how to obtain scholarships, and how to bring their English language skills up to acceptable levels.