MENA : Reforming higher education to absorb unemployment and stimulate the economy

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This publication focuses on one fundamental issue in North Africa brought to the fore by the Arab Spring: the high unemployment rate among university graduates. This situation calls for a drastic change in higher education, to lift the quality of education in the MENA region and foster the employability of graduates, including their self-employment.

The report highlights that one of the root causes of unemployment is quite often the mismatch between graduates’ skills and recruiters’ needs. Indeed, graduates have a mono-dimensional education with limited competencies, restricted lines of employment, and little job mobility. Moreover, the rapidly growing students’ population has not always had a commensurate development in the quality of university faculty and infrastructure, and the creation of the corresponding number of jobs.

In a rapidly changing, global and technology based business environment, the traditional role of universities needs to change to engage the industry, and to help the economy by fostering entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology-enabled value creation through educational programs.

New or revamped courses and programs that emphasize cross disciplinary learning, hands-on experience, students’ exchange programs, and entrepreneurial initiatives will allow students to learn best practices, interact with diverse cultures, and help to remove the silo mentality that has existed in the MENA universities for years. A strong linkage or partnership between universities, government and industry is another way to ensure that there is a supporting eco-system fostering job creation, and new educational venture, and therefore, opportunities for (self-) employment. By so doing, university graduates would be more marketable and better equipped to use their talent and knowledge in a more rewarding, and lasting job, thus, creating value for themselves, and their country’s economy.