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A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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The Egyptian Academy of Science and Technology
1st
International conference of women in science without Borders
Bridging the gender gap in STEM in favor of sustainable development
Cairo, Egypt from 21-23 March 2017
Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in
MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
Abdeslam Badre, PhD
Social Sciences – Mohammed V University
Abstract
Like her sisters in the West, the Arab female scientist has made discernible successes in science,
especially, Science and Engineering (S&E); however, her achievement has yet to be completely translated
into the S&E workforce. 2016 Data from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine,
highlight the increasing number of degrees earned by women in science and engineering, especially in the
Middle East North Africa Region (MENA), but when all the S&E disciplines are aggregated, it is easy to
overlook both the advances in education attainment women have made in the life sciences, as well as the
continuing challenges women face in some of the physical sciences and engineering fields. The present
paper sheds lights on the current professional situation of Arab female scientists in the Middle East North
African (MENA) region. The paper argues that women in science in the MENA region, on the one hand,
have been and are being heard and seen through their: a) outstanding contributions and innovative outputs
in in applied sciences (STEM) and beyond; b) participation in various international scientific gatherings; c)
winning of a number of internationally recognized honors and prices; and d) securing substantial amounts
of research external funding establishing transnational collaborations for launching scientific undertakings.
On the other hand, Arab female scientists in the region still suffer inequality in terms of involvement in
science-based professions, decision-making and power-sharing positions, which is why although the
number of Arab female enrolments and graduations in post-graduate science education have increased
during the current decade, many of these scientists do not make their career paths into science profession
and industries, because once there, most of them are faced up with a public sphere governed by
androcentrism. The paper suggests two programmatic recommendations for bridging the gap between
women’s transition from education to career building in scientific fields.
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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1. Introduction
As the growing demands for higher education due to the skyrocketed rate of
undergraduates’ enrolments in the Arab states outpace the available infrastructure and human
capital, increasing the number of especially female PhD students and graduates within universities
is no more a luxury, but rather a “MUST”. Because undergraduate enrollments have expanded by
9.6% annually during the last decade, postgraduate enrolment both in masters and PhD programs,
among women, makes up only for 8% of the total enrolment. For the decade ahead, a record
number of youth bulge will fuel tertiary education system. Therefore, to reach the goal of driving
the MENA region towards a knowledge-based economy, the proportion of female PhD holders
and university teachers ought to increase, because these are the brains who will enhance the future
of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and transform Arab youth into a qualified skilled
force. On this ground, this paper identifies three main challenges that hamper the growth of
female PhD holders’ number especially in IT, and Engineering; and thus, making their career
paths into research and academia. Then, two programmatic interventions are proposed as an
alternative for optimizing the annum rate of MENA female PhD holders, particularly in science.
Before that, it is worthwhile sketching out a brief overview on the current trends and state of Arab
women’s postgraduate education.
2. Current Situation in the MENA region
Of the 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region women currently make up
49.7%; and according to the UNESCO Science Report: 2030, women now account for 53% of the
world’s bachelor's and master's graduates and 43% of PhDs. In the Arab world 37% of
researchers are women, compared to 33 % in the European Union. Algeria is now at complete
parity; Palestine, Libya, Tunisia, Kuwait and the United Arab of Emirates all show slightly higher
enrolment rates for women than men. The same progress is witnessed in the Gulf countries. In
fact, in some Gulf States, namely: Qatar and Oman, female enrolment tracks ahead of male
participation in higher education, at the rate of 60%. These trends reveal a changing dynamic
toward gender in education that is starting to be viewed as essentially a female sphere. Yemen,
however, appears to be the furthest behind of the Arab countries in granting women access to
higher education; the same applies to Saudi Arabia.
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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3. Remaining Challenges facing Arab Women’s Post-Graduate Education
But despite the many advances made in terms of closing the gender gap in health, political
representation, and labor force participation, many other barriers remain. UN, UNSCO, or WEF
statistics often mask wide intraregional variations and although the gender gap in the Middle East
and North Africa has closed dramatically in recent years, there remains a lag in women’s
participation in higher education throughout the region. For instance, accessibility and success for
women studying in Qatari institutions does not reflect an equal access to job market. That is to
say, university studies are equally available to men in Qatar but the lack of a university
qualification does not appear to impair the career prospects of men, many of whom simply enter
the workforce directly after secondary school. Conversely, women, for whom senior positions and
further training opportunities are still less available; appear more inclined to pursue higher
education as a way of strengthening their career prospects.
And yes, although political empowerment has improved in the region, apparently more than
doubling the rate in 2006, according to the WEF Gender Gap Report, but it is still very low.
Globally, the average percentage of women in parliament is 25%, but across the Arab world as a
whole, women only hold 7% of parliamentary seats. Additionally, while the global average for
women in the labor force is about 50%, female’s workforce participation stands at only 25%,
despite the fact that more and more women are better educated than before, only 17% of women
work in the nonagricultural sector.
4. Forces feeding these challenges: Why
Despite the fact that enrolment in tertiary education is booming, most of the female
students do not make their ways to doctoral education, and the conversion rate of masters’ holders
to PhDs remains low. Identified in this paper are three reasons that feed those challenges:
a. Poor implementation policies;
b.Outdated design of PhD programs that does not accommodate Arab women’s social
and cultural lifestyle;
c.Inadequate infrastructure
First, the lack of reform implementation in the Arab Region is often lamented as a
problem not of good policy but of poor implementation, which is then attributed to a lack of
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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capacity or funds. However, the difficulty actually originates with superficial understandings of
the problem, followed by fluffy political declarations rather than programmatic policies, as well
as a lack of consensus on what to do and how to do it. Considering the general development-aid
funding context, the challenge is to do more systematic, research-informed studies to diagnose
problems in a way that avoids hasty prescriptions.
Second, for decades, extensive coursework, comprehensive examinations, and dissertation
writing have been the major form of training students go through to become PhDs, who find
themselves immersed and inculcated in their closed respective community of academic scholars,
but disconnected from the changing societal demands. While this approach ensure that students
undergo rigorous academic training contingent to the requirement of a doctoral program, many
universities are still struggling on developing and offering alternative blended PhD programs that
combine the academic rigor and flexibility in terms of structure and time as is the case with
universities in Europe or North America; not to speak of the unbearable financial burden
traditional PhD programs maintain on public funding. Furthermore, students remain under
increasing pressure to build a record of significant academic accomplishments, with a lower
probability of securing a full-time position in higher education after graduation.
Third, and finally, scarce funding limits the capacities of universities to implement ample
and quality graduate programs within favorable academic infrastructures. Tight budget, budget
cuts, freezes-in-hiring, and low salaries, and low staff-to-student ratios discourage a great portion
of young men and women graduates from taking up university careers, and chase away many
others to brain drain.
5. Best practice from the African Continent
South Africa tells an inspiring story. Following the publication of the National
Development Plan (NDP) in 2011, SA embraced a knowledge-economy approach, proposing a
discernible increase in post-secondary school enrolments, mainly in the further education and
training (FET) college sector; and improving existing and designing new incentive structures,
notably, for increasing doctoral output, and the proportion of academic staff with doctorates (from
the 2010 level of 34% to 70% by 2030) and the increasing demand for ‘professional’ PhDs in the
financial and services sectors, setting a national target of producing more than 100 doctoral
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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graduates per one million of the population by 2030 (NPC 2012). The annual production of
doctorates nearly tripled from 5 152 in 1996 to 13 965 in 2012, showing a 6.4% per annum
increase, while the number of graduates also nearly tripled, from 685 to 1 879, being a 6.5% per
annum increase.
In its efforts to transform its economy through human capital development, South Africa,
in collaboration with other Industrialized countries (including the UK, Canada and Australia
among others), launched the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) site in the Northern Cape: this is a
global science and engineering project to build the world's largest radio telescope that will collect
and process vast amounts of data, which would require and encourage significant advances in
high-performance computing. Furthermore, to help develop technical and artisan skills and
produce a new cohort of young scientists, paying particular attention to gender parity, that would
be the future leaders of the SKA project, 699 students and postdoctoral fellows have been
supported through the SKA South Africa fellowship program.
The project aligns with the African Union's 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation
Strategy for Africa. It promises to drive human capital development on the continent, contribute
to Africa's efforts to build innovation-led, knowledge- based economies, and create jobs not only
during the next decade or so of construction, but also for the next 50 years of operation and
maintenance. Thanks to its determined political will, clear vision and hard work, South Africa
today dominates a snapshot of what a new ranking for African universities could look like,
making up two-fifths of the institutions in the list, and two thirds of research outputs at the
continental level. With the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand
both taking the first and second places respectively in the preliminary top 30, the country emerges
as a key regional education hub, attracting 48% of Southern African Developing Community
(SADC) mobile students to pursuing undergraduate opportunities, with social sciences, business,
and law among others.
6. Proposed initiative
To increase the number of PhD holders and university teachers in synchrony with the
socio-economic and environmental demands of the MENA Region, two suggested policies could
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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be pursued in tandem. The first will optimize the number of female PhD enrolment by recruiting
in-country potential candidates who are willing to pay for PhD education, but cannot pursue
fulltime class-based programs due to their professional and social engagements. This could be
done by implementing three reformist measures:
a. remodeling the design (blending traditional course-work with other leadership acquisition
trainings);
b. mode of implementation (matching both online and off-line courses), and instructional
methods of PhD programs especially vis-à-vis students’ supervision which could aim at
encouraging joint-supervision (institutes could offer students the possibility to be jointly
supervised by an in-school supervisor – who will obviously ensure the academic norms of
the students’ performance- and an independent expert in the industry or field of students’
chosen discipline for providing a rather professional perspective and input to the student’s
research;
c. Creating new interdisciplinary tracks and diversifying doctoral program segmentation by
introducing and optimizing the number of programs pertinent the local societal need of
each Arab country, paying particular attention to alternative medicine, logistical
engineering, waster management, to state a few.
The second will aim at attacking and recruiting more and more Arab female students who
opt for postgraduate studies in private institutes outside the region to rather enroll in doctoral
programs within MENA region institutes, which promises to optimize Arab post-graduates
mobility and brain circulation within the region rather than brain-drain. As mentioned earlier,
among the other reasons why South Africa’s universities succeed in attracting 48% of Southern
African Developing Community (SADC) mobile students is the competitive cost-service quality
rapport offered to mobile students, which is 3 times less than the increasingly prohibitive cost of
American or British universities. Hence, Arab countries should bid on recruiting these students’
segments. This approach ensures, on the one hand, that research undertakings are designed to
respond to the needs and demands of local communities; on the other hand, having Arab
researchers doing research within the region will optimize retaining brain power, and reducing
brain drain.
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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7. Implementation options
7.1. Option 1: Remolding design & diversification of PhD programs segments
Process: A competitive fee-based quasi-online and blended/sandwich professional PhD
programs is to be launched in sectors that match the labor market’s evolution as well as the socio-
economic and environmental demands of each MENA country. Knowing that there is a
significant shortage of STEM and applied sciences in-home PhD holders, attention could be
invested in increasing the number of specific professional and interdisciplinary doctorate
programs in Medicine (Nano-Tech for fighting Infectious Diseases), Logistical Engineering;
Territorial Management and Urbanism (e.g.: Decentralized City Planning); Environmental & Bio-
diversity Preservation (Water Desalination & Water Management, Desertification); Service
Sectors (Knowledge Transfer; Banking Sectors & offshoring), among others. These programs
could be first piloted at a departmental level within a leading university in each country to a
manageable number of PhD candidates. To be inspired by existing US, British, and South African
experiences, each of the participating countries could launch two PhD program-lines:
a. A completely distance-based course load with the exception of research supervisor;
b. A blended program including both distance learning and class-contacts.
Both programs, however, will include a “sandwich-year” that will allow the students to put into
practice the learned theoretical knowledge and acquire professional experience. To increase
regional students’ mobility, governments could partner in devising a cross-national university
consortium that allow these students to spend the “sandwich-year” in one of the regional partner
countries.
Characteristics: On the one hand, these programs will increase PhD enrolments
especially among already employed candidates. On the other hand, they will alleviate the burden
imposed on the university budgets, infrastructure, and faculty members. To strike a balance
between the flexibility of blended programs and the required rigor and norms of doctoral
program, it is important that the university remains the sole manager for all the curricula, which,
in turn, have to abide by the regulatory and control-quality norms set by the institutional
governing body of each country. The programs’ competitive advantage lays in its provision of
three value-added characteristics: a) market-based blended program that tailor theory to practice;
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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b) intra-regional mobility; c) and competitive cost-quality service and flexibility rapports.
7.2. Option 2: Bidding on retaining Students Mobility within Regional Universities
Process: The initiative mainly tries to retain as much as possible the students who are likely
to study in private universities abroad. Following the path of South Africa, this could be done at
two levels. On one level, governments can foster doctoral applied research in specific strategic
areas within their flagship universities by providing incentives for postgraduate institutions and
firms to collaborate in garnering technological capability. Setting up institutions for disseminating
and commercializing the fruits of research will make them more attractive to students from the
Arab world.
On the other level, governments are to encourage good governance and autonomy of tertiary
institutions, both public and private. Governments can stimulate competition among them on a
national and even regional basis by flattening-up their accreditation and bureaucratic processes,
while simultaneously subject all tertiary institutions to quality-based performance assessment
through independent scientific bodies (e.g. Mauritius could the best model in this regard). It is
important to note that the success of this initiative remains significantly contingent to that of
Option 1.
Characteristics: increasing Arab female students’ mobility within the MENA universities
is a win-win situation for the students, the host countries, and the home countries, as this mobility
will cause knowledge and financial capital circulation within the region. Taking advantage of the
fueling costs of postgraduate education in Europe and America, South Africa development policy
documents aiming at launching internationally competitive PhD programs, with advantageous
fee-package, to attract postgraduate students from elsewhere on the African continent. Given that
the annual cost for a PhD student studying at a South African University is 3,000 USD (versus
21,000 USD at Britain or 26,000 in the USA), 48% of SADAC mobile students today peruse their
studies in South Africa. Thanks to this Strategy South Africa’s has managed to maintain an
annual growth of 6.4% in PhD enrolments.
A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative
	
  
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References
1. Akwasi Asabere-Ameyaw; George J. Sefa Dei; & Kolawole Raheem (Ed.). Contemporary
Issues in African Sciences and Science Education. Sense Publishers: The
Netherlands, 2012.
2. Deon Filmer & Louise Fox (Et. Al.). Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa.
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank:
Washington DC, 2014.
3. J.L.Enos. In pursuit of science and technology in Sub-Saharan Africa: The impact of
structural adjustment programmes. Routledge: New York, 2003.
4. Mathieu Brossard & Borel Foko. Costs and Financing of Higher Education in
Francophone Africa. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development /
The World Bank: Washington DC, 2008
5. NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA). African Innovation Outlook 2014,
NPCA, Pretoria, 2014.
6. Nico Cloete, Tracy Bailey, Pundy Pillay, Ian Bunting & Peter Maassen. Universities and
ECONOMIC Development in Africa. Centre for Higher Education Transformation
(CHET): South Africa, 2011.
7. Nico Cloete, Johann Mouton & Charles Sheppard. Doctoral Education in South Africa:
Policy, Discourse and Data. African Minds: South Africa, 2015
8. World Bank. Accelerating Catch-up Tertiary Education for Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank:
Washington DC, 2009.
9. World Bank. Improving Health, Nutrition, and Population Outcomes in Sub-Saharan
Africa The Role of the World Bank. The International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development / The World Bank. Washington DC, 2015.
10. Wout Ottevanger; Jan van den Akker; & Leo de Feiter. Developing Science, Mathematics,
and ICT Education in Sub-Saharan Africa: Patterns and Promising Practices. The
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank:
Washington, D.C, 2007.

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1. 1st international conference of women in science without borders

  • 1. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   1   The Egyptian Academy of Science and Technology 1st International conference of women in science without Borders Bridging the gender gap in STEM in favor of sustainable development Cairo, Egypt from 21-23 March 2017 Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative Abdeslam Badre, PhD Social Sciences – Mohammed V University Abstract Like her sisters in the West, the Arab female scientist has made discernible successes in science, especially, Science and Engineering (S&E); however, her achievement has yet to be completely translated into the S&E workforce. 2016 Data from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, highlight the increasing number of degrees earned by women in science and engineering, especially in the Middle East North Africa Region (MENA), but when all the S&E disciplines are aggregated, it is easy to overlook both the advances in education attainment women have made in the life sciences, as well as the continuing challenges women face in some of the physical sciences and engineering fields. The present paper sheds lights on the current professional situation of Arab female scientists in the Middle East North African (MENA) region. The paper argues that women in science in the MENA region, on the one hand, have been and are being heard and seen through their: a) outstanding contributions and innovative outputs in in applied sciences (STEM) and beyond; b) participation in various international scientific gatherings; c) winning of a number of internationally recognized honors and prices; and d) securing substantial amounts of research external funding establishing transnational collaborations for launching scientific undertakings. On the other hand, Arab female scientists in the region still suffer inequality in terms of involvement in science-based professions, decision-making and power-sharing positions, which is why although the number of Arab female enrolments and graduations in post-graduate science education have increased during the current decade, many of these scientists do not make their career paths into science profession and industries, because once there, most of them are faced up with a public sphere governed by androcentrism. The paper suggests two programmatic recommendations for bridging the gap between women’s transition from education to career building in scientific fields.
  • 2. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   2   1. Introduction As the growing demands for higher education due to the skyrocketed rate of undergraduates’ enrolments in the Arab states outpace the available infrastructure and human capital, increasing the number of especially female PhD students and graduates within universities is no more a luxury, but rather a “MUST”. Because undergraduate enrollments have expanded by 9.6% annually during the last decade, postgraduate enrolment both in masters and PhD programs, among women, makes up only for 8% of the total enrolment. For the decade ahead, a record number of youth bulge will fuel tertiary education system. Therefore, to reach the goal of driving the MENA region towards a knowledge-based economy, the proportion of female PhD holders and university teachers ought to increase, because these are the brains who will enhance the future of Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) and transform Arab youth into a qualified skilled force. On this ground, this paper identifies three main challenges that hamper the growth of female PhD holders’ number especially in IT, and Engineering; and thus, making their career paths into research and academia. Then, two programmatic interventions are proposed as an alternative for optimizing the annum rate of MENA female PhD holders, particularly in science. Before that, it is worthwhile sketching out a brief overview on the current trends and state of Arab women’s postgraduate education. 2. Current Situation in the MENA region Of the 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region women currently make up 49.7%; and according to the UNESCO Science Report: 2030, women now account for 53% of the world’s bachelor's and master's graduates and 43% of PhDs. In the Arab world 37% of researchers are women, compared to 33 % in the European Union. Algeria is now at complete parity; Palestine, Libya, Tunisia, Kuwait and the United Arab of Emirates all show slightly higher enrolment rates for women than men. The same progress is witnessed in the Gulf countries. In fact, in some Gulf States, namely: Qatar and Oman, female enrolment tracks ahead of male participation in higher education, at the rate of 60%. These trends reveal a changing dynamic toward gender in education that is starting to be viewed as essentially a female sphere. Yemen, however, appears to be the furthest behind of the Arab countries in granting women access to higher education; the same applies to Saudi Arabia.
  • 3. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   3   3. Remaining Challenges facing Arab Women’s Post-Graduate Education But despite the many advances made in terms of closing the gender gap in health, political representation, and labor force participation, many other barriers remain. UN, UNSCO, or WEF statistics often mask wide intraregional variations and although the gender gap in the Middle East and North Africa has closed dramatically in recent years, there remains a lag in women’s participation in higher education throughout the region. For instance, accessibility and success for women studying in Qatari institutions does not reflect an equal access to job market. That is to say, university studies are equally available to men in Qatar but the lack of a university qualification does not appear to impair the career prospects of men, many of whom simply enter the workforce directly after secondary school. Conversely, women, for whom senior positions and further training opportunities are still less available; appear more inclined to pursue higher education as a way of strengthening their career prospects. And yes, although political empowerment has improved in the region, apparently more than doubling the rate in 2006, according to the WEF Gender Gap Report, but it is still very low. Globally, the average percentage of women in parliament is 25%, but across the Arab world as a whole, women only hold 7% of parliamentary seats. Additionally, while the global average for women in the labor force is about 50%, female’s workforce participation stands at only 25%, despite the fact that more and more women are better educated than before, only 17% of women work in the nonagricultural sector. 4. Forces feeding these challenges: Why Despite the fact that enrolment in tertiary education is booming, most of the female students do not make their ways to doctoral education, and the conversion rate of masters’ holders to PhDs remains low. Identified in this paper are three reasons that feed those challenges: a. Poor implementation policies; b.Outdated design of PhD programs that does not accommodate Arab women’s social and cultural lifestyle; c.Inadequate infrastructure First, the lack of reform implementation in the Arab Region is often lamented as a problem not of good policy but of poor implementation, which is then attributed to a lack of
  • 4. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   4   capacity or funds. However, the difficulty actually originates with superficial understandings of the problem, followed by fluffy political declarations rather than programmatic policies, as well as a lack of consensus on what to do and how to do it. Considering the general development-aid funding context, the challenge is to do more systematic, research-informed studies to diagnose problems in a way that avoids hasty prescriptions. Second, for decades, extensive coursework, comprehensive examinations, and dissertation writing have been the major form of training students go through to become PhDs, who find themselves immersed and inculcated in their closed respective community of academic scholars, but disconnected from the changing societal demands. While this approach ensure that students undergo rigorous academic training contingent to the requirement of a doctoral program, many universities are still struggling on developing and offering alternative blended PhD programs that combine the academic rigor and flexibility in terms of structure and time as is the case with universities in Europe or North America; not to speak of the unbearable financial burden traditional PhD programs maintain on public funding. Furthermore, students remain under increasing pressure to build a record of significant academic accomplishments, with a lower probability of securing a full-time position in higher education after graduation. Third, and finally, scarce funding limits the capacities of universities to implement ample and quality graduate programs within favorable academic infrastructures. Tight budget, budget cuts, freezes-in-hiring, and low salaries, and low staff-to-student ratios discourage a great portion of young men and women graduates from taking up university careers, and chase away many others to brain drain. 5. Best practice from the African Continent South Africa tells an inspiring story. Following the publication of the National Development Plan (NDP) in 2011, SA embraced a knowledge-economy approach, proposing a discernible increase in post-secondary school enrolments, mainly in the further education and training (FET) college sector; and improving existing and designing new incentive structures, notably, for increasing doctoral output, and the proportion of academic staff with doctorates (from the 2010 level of 34% to 70% by 2030) and the increasing demand for ‘professional’ PhDs in the financial and services sectors, setting a national target of producing more than 100 doctoral
  • 5. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   5   graduates per one million of the population by 2030 (NPC 2012). The annual production of doctorates nearly tripled from 5 152 in 1996 to 13 965 in 2012, showing a 6.4% per annum increase, while the number of graduates also nearly tripled, from 685 to 1 879, being a 6.5% per annum increase. In its efforts to transform its economy through human capital development, South Africa, in collaboration with other Industrialized countries (including the UK, Canada and Australia among others), launched the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) site in the Northern Cape: this is a global science and engineering project to build the world's largest radio telescope that will collect and process vast amounts of data, which would require and encourage significant advances in high-performance computing. Furthermore, to help develop technical and artisan skills and produce a new cohort of young scientists, paying particular attention to gender parity, that would be the future leaders of the SKA project, 699 students and postdoctoral fellows have been supported through the SKA South Africa fellowship program. The project aligns with the African Union's 10-year Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa. It promises to drive human capital development on the continent, contribute to Africa's efforts to build innovation-led, knowledge- based economies, and create jobs not only during the next decade or so of construction, but also for the next 50 years of operation and maintenance. Thanks to its determined political will, clear vision and hard work, South Africa today dominates a snapshot of what a new ranking for African universities could look like, making up two-fifths of the institutions in the list, and two thirds of research outputs at the continental level. With the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand both taking the first and second places respectively in the preliminary top 30, the country emerges as a key regional education hub, attracting 48% of Southern African Developing Community (SADC) mobile students to pursuing undergraduate opportunities, with social sciences, business, and law among others. 6. Proposed initiative To increase the number of PhD holders and university teachers in synchrony with the socio-economic and environmental demands of the MENA Region, two suggested policies could
  • 6. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   6   be pursued in tandem. The first will optimize the number of female PhD enrolment by recruiting in-country potential candidates who are willing to pay for PhD education, but cannot pursue fulltime class-based programs due to their professional and social engagements. This could be done by implementing three reformist measures: a. remodeling the design (blending traditional course-work with other leadership acquisition trainings); b. mode of implementation (matching both online and off-line courses), and instructional methods of PhD programs especially vis-à-vis students’ supervision which could aim at encouraging joint-supervision (institutes could offer students the possibility to be jointly supervised by an in-school supervisor – who will obviously ensure the academic norms of the students’ performance- and an independent expert in the industry or field of students’ chosen discipline for providing a rather professional perspective and input to the student’s research; c. Creating new interdisciplinary tracks and diversifying doctoral program segmentation by introducing and optimizing the number of programs pertinent the local societal need of each Arab country, paying particular attention to alternative medicine, logistical engineering, waster management, to state a few. The second will aim at attacking and recruiting more and more Arab female students who opt for postgraduate studies in private institutes outside the region to rather enroll in doctoral programs within MENA region institutes, which promises to optimize Arab post-graduates mobility and brain circulation within the region rather than brain-drain. As mentioned earlier, among the other reasons why South Africa’s universities succeed in attracting 48% of Southern African Developing Community (SADC) mobile students is the competitive cost-service quality rapport offered to mobile students, which is 3 times less than the increasingly prohibitive cost of American or British universities. Hence, Arab countries should bid on recruiting these students’ segments. This approach ensures, on the one hand, that research undertakings are designed to respond to the needs and demands of local communities; on the other hand, having Arab researchers doing research within the region will optimize retaining brain power, and reducing brain drain.
  • 7. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   7   7. Implementation options 7.1. Option 1: Remolding design & diversification of PhD programs segments Process: A competitive fee-based quasi-online and blended/sandwich professional PhD programs is to be launched in sectors that match the labor market’s evolution as well as the socio- economic and environmental demands of each MENA country. Knowing that there is a significant shortage of STEM and applied sciences in-home PhD holders, attention could be invested in increasing the number of specific professional and interdisciplinary doctorate programs in Medicine (Nano-Tech for fighting Infectious Diseases), Logistical Engineering; Territorial Management and Urbanism (e.g.: Decentralized City Planning); Environmental & Bio- diversity Preservation (Water Desalination & Water Management, Desertification); Service Sectors (Knowledge Transfer; Banking Sectors & offshoring), among others. These programs could be first piloted at a departmental level within a leading university in each country to a manageable number of PhD candidates. To be inspired by existing US, British, and South African experiences, each of the participating countries could launch two PhD program-lines: a. A completely distance-based course load with the exception of research supervisor; b. A blended program including both distance learning and class-contacts. Both programs, however, will include a “sandwich-year” that will allow the students to put into practice the learned theoretical knowledge and acquire professional experience. To increase regional students’ mobility, governments could partner in devising a cross-national university consortium that allow these students to spend the “sandwich-year” in one of the regional partner countries. Characteristics: On the one hand, these programs will increase PhD enrolments especially among already employed candidates. On the other hand, they will alleviate the burden imposed on the university budgets, infrastructure, and faculty members. To strike a balance between the flexibility of blended programs and the required rigor and norms of doctoral program, it is important that the university remains the sole manager for all the curricula, which, in turn, have to abide by the regulatory and control-quality norms set by the institutional governing body of each country. The programs’ competitive advantage lays in its provision of three value-added characteristics: a) market-based blended program that tailor theory to practice;
  • 8. A.Badre - Gender in Science: Remaining Challenges from Education to Profession Transition in MENA Region - Suggested Policy Initiative   8   b) intra-regional mobility; c) and competitive cost-quality service and flexibility rapports. 7.2. Option 2: Bidding on retaining Students Mobility within Regional Universities Process: The initiative mainly tries to retain as much as possible the students who are likely to study in private universities abroad. Following the path of South Africa, this could be done at two levels. On one level, governments can foster doctoral applied research in specific strategic areas within their flagship universities by providing incentives for postgraduate institutions and firms to collaborate in garnering technological capability. Setting up institutions for disseminating and commercializing the fruits of research will make them more attractive to students from the Arab world. On the other level, governments are to encourage good governance and autonomy of tertiary institutions, both public and private. Governments can stimulate competition among them on a national and even regional basis by flattening-up their accreditation and bureaucratic processes, while simultaneously subject all tertiary institutions to quality-based performance assessment through independent scientific bodies (e.g. Mauritius could the best model in this regard). It is important to note that the success of this initiative remains significantly contingent to that of Option 1. Characteristics: increasing Arab female students’ mobility within the MENA universities is a win-win situation for the students, the host countries, and the home countries, as this mobility will cause knowledge and financial capital circulation within the region. Taking advantage of the fueling costs of postgraduate education in Europe and America, South Africa development policy documents aiming at launching internationally competitive PhD programs, with advantageous fee-package, to attract postgraduate students from elsewhere on the African continent. Given that the annual cost for a PhD student studying at a South African University is 3,000 USD (versus 21,000 USD at Britain or 26,000 in the USA), 48% of SADAC mobile students today peruse their studies in South Africa. Thanks to this Strategy South Africa’s has managed to maintain an annual growth of 6.4% in PhD enrolments.
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