Higher Education Is an Investment in the Future

Table of Content

One of the main factors that indicate the quality of education as well as the economic and social development in every country is knowledge. Higher education system is the knowledge indicator for each country, it shows whether it is high or low (Salmi, 2010). Consequently, for ensuring a sustainable growth economy and obtaining a high living standard, the society is crucially required to be able to create and use knowledge (World Bank, 2002). So higher education system is a major factor form of investment in human capital development and the development engine in the new world economy (Ceyda ÖZSOY,2008).

Yemen is one of the developing countries located in the Southern part of the Arabian Peninsula. It is boarded by Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the north and the Red Sea to the west. The official language is Arabic, and the official religion is Islam in this country. The Republic of Yemen has a total area of about 555,000 square kilometers and a population of about 29 million people of whom 40% live under the line of poverty. The average gross domestic product per capita is $ 930 and Yemen was ranked 153 out of 177 countries in the Human Development Index 2007 and is considered the poorest country in the Middle East and the North Africa region (Elsa Duret,2010).

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Higher education in Yemen began the establishment of Sana’a University in 1970, which is new compared to other developed countries (Jamil Ahmed, 2007). The ministry of higher education and scientific research in Yemen was established in 1990 and the universities were under its responsibilities, it was eliminated in 1994 and then re-established in 2001 (National Strategy, 2005). In 2004, the ministry of higher education and scientific research (MoHSER) transferred the responsibilities of the community colleges to the Ministry of the Technical and Vocational Education. The controlling of the budget over the MoHSER is done by the Ministry of Finance which is the official agency deciding the amount that each university needs to be paid (National Strategy, 2005).

Yemen universities are somehow independent by article 3 of the university law which clearly states (public universities are administratively, academically and financially independent (National Strategy,2005). Nevertheless, the ministry of finance is constrained and have employees in each university to manage prior permission from the Financial Ministry (Elsa Duret,2010). So, if it happens that the university haven’t spent the budget by the end of the year, it is not possible to carry it forward to the next year, which can be considered as a serious issue. The World Bank in 2002 made a survey and found it that YR 258 million are allocated for acquiring new books in 1998, and almost 40% was used and what is left of the budget was returned to Ministry of Finance (World Bank, 2002).

In Yemen there are 27 universities (nine public universities and eighteen private universities) with 179 colleges (Yemen information center, 2010). The number of students who are rolled in the universities has increased from 35000 in 1990 to 266,096 in 2010 (203497 in public universities and 62599 in private universities). Moreover, the percentage of females enrolled in the higher education increased from 16% in 1990 to 30% in 2010. On the other hand, the enrolling of students in the private universities increased from 0% in 1993 to 23.5% in 2010 from the total high school graduations (Indicator and data of education,2008)

The Yemeni universities hire about 2650 fully academic staff on tenure, likely holding PhDs, in addition a further 1750 teaching assistants, with master degrees as their highest qualification.

The private universities, other than the University of Science and Technology, in general don’t employ their own graduated staff.

There is a number of non-Yemenis who are employed in Yemen’s different public universities, mostly in science and technology subjects. These non-Yemenis get paid more than those who are Yemenis. It is known that without these overseas staff, it wouldn’t in the past have been possible to provide staff with suitable qualifications to teach these subjects (National Strategy, 2005).

The salary of a universal professor is around $9326 per year, which is considered low based on international standards (also the standards of other countries in the same region), but considered high in the Yemeni life standards. As a result, it is common for university staff members to have another job beside their university position because university staff would like to maintain their high prestige in the Yemeni society. So universities positions are high demanded (National Strategy, 2005).

In Yemen’s universities, Research is utterly underdeveloped. The atmosphere of research culture is absent, also the insufficiency of the resources and facilities (libraries, journals, laboratories and technical staff) as well as the lack of motivation to involve in research. In addition, the inadequate financial support for research in universities, and the lacking of having the feeling of belonging to an institution because the research that is done seems to be self-motivated in order to make a good promotion for individual staff rather than being part of an institution ( National Strategy, 2005 ).

The number of postgraduates in Yemen’s universities is very small. In Sana’a university, there are only 600 postgraduates out of 87000 students and in the whole country there are only 1500. There is an intendancy to develop the research development in order to enhance the university system as well as serve the local nation (National Strategy, 2005).

The total spending on abroad scholarships from MoHESR, universities and colleges has increased from YR 2.6 billion in 1997 to YR 7.2 billion in 2004-05. Nearly 5300 students were funded in 2004 and 2005 by MoHESR scholarships with 74% for undergraduate programs and 26% for postgraduate program. It is so vital to make sure that the available money is used properly, no matter how much funding is available – and specifically where are somehow scarce. There has been a criticism on the overseas scholarship program because an education budget of YR 7.2 billion is considered high and there is a slight chance that it maintains as it is (National Strategy, 2005).

The unit cost per student in Yemen (public student and not scholarships holders) is about $ 875 in 2004, almost around 159 % of GDP per capita which makes Yemen perform well compared to other countries. The percentage of per capita GDP is an indicator for a better economic position for different countries (National Strategy, 2005).

In Yemen the law allows the parallel fees, where most of the students with low grades who normally aren’t accepted in colleges or particular programs (like engineering or medicine) can be accepted while paying a fee. It is also difficult to figure out a general system of student fees because many of the students are not able to afford this amount of significant fee and at the moment there are no strategies or mechanisms for giving loans to students to pay fees. The charge fees in private institutions are quite genuine (for instance, the charges of medical and dentistry for students are of $3800 per year in the University of Science and Technology). Students rolled in parallel programs are somehow a small fraction of the total students which makes the contribution to the proportion of GDP devoted to higher education low. Even though if the universities are able to borrow money for investment, they would be lacking the necessary skills and abilities to manage it (National Strategy, 2005).

Allocating budget in Yemenis’ universities has a few advantages of providing stability but at the expense of inefficiencies. A little transparency and no basis in funding the institutions. Different universities have different funding per capita, for instance Taiz University has under YR 50,000 per year per capita while Hadramout University has over YR 185,000 per year per capita. The Yemeni Government figured out that the present arrangements have some flaws so that the they proposed a study to reconstruct the resource allocation system with the support of the World Bank (National Strategy, 2005).

There is no process of quality assurance in universities, even though each individual university may have ways to assure quality. Moreover, the universities and the staff within them have no motivations or intentions to sustain high quality and high standards in what they provide, as well as the lack of accreditation process. As a result, the private universities can operate without worrying of evaluating their abilities to sustain the higher education provision. On the other hand, there are instances of good practice in quality assurance performed in a private university in Yemen (The University of Science and Technology). This university has a good quality assurance system that concludes the evaluation of every professor twice per year as well as making the students have a survey of the professors performance (National Strategy, 2005).

As we know universities are functioned everywhere by providing proper services to their local community and to set their priorities in investing their knowledge, skills and facilities to serve the wider population. In Yemen these services may take place in universities but there is no methodical information regarding that, also there isn’t much signs that these services occur except for some university professor who perform consultancy assignments to gain personal reputation. It is really devastating cause universities are stuffed with some of the most talented people with high knowledge, who live in a third-development countries, who desperately are in need to make use of all the resources. Part of the blame is given to the staff who have other responsibilities or commitments prior to their duties in universities. In addition, the staff has no desire to be submitted to public service which makes it a weak profession area in the university that needs to be developed and the government should give it more attention and consider commitment to public service ( National Strategy, 2005 ).

The ministry of higher education and scientific research has set goals to rise the vision of the education system in the Yemenis universities. One of the goals is to extend the access to universities and higher education institutions precisely in the age of (19-23) increasing the rate from 13% to 16% and to reach 35% by the year 2025. Moreover, the quality of the universities graduates as well as the higher education institutions should be improved with focusing on the depth of knowledge, problem-solving skills and communication skills in different languages. Also, to have new diversity programs that catch up local and national needs (National Strategy, 2005).

There are studies that focus on the preparation of the future faculty members to level up with the quality improvements of top Yemeni universities to ensure the quality of teaching materials, learning, research competitiveness according to international standards. The higher education also has plans to enhance the institutionalization of culture in universities to tighten up national unity and participate in forming a unified democratic country which is based on Islamic roots and high value of justice and tolerance. Plus, strengthening the coordination bond between the universities and other higher education institutions to tighten up the integration at all levels. On the other hand, there are some weakness points in the environment of the higher education in Yemeni universities.

There is an absence of transparency in accounting in most of the higher education institutions. Universities depend on the government of about 70% of their total expenditure on wages and scholarship which makes the financial resources limited. Moreover, most of the public and private universities have insufficient libraries, teaching aids, laboratories and communications networks. These physical resources limits particularly the participation and integration in scientific and engineering fields. The substantial problem with the Yemeni higher education system is that the funding situation is tight, the ratio of the student:staff is high, the provided resources aren’t efficiently used and the uncertainty of the economic prospects in the future ( National Strategy, 2005 ).

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