Yemeni higher education criticized [Archives:2007/1036/Local News]

March 26 2007

Ismail Al-Ghabri
SANA'A, March 24 – Yemeni members of Parliament criticized the government for neglecting higher education and pushing Yemenis to emigrate outside the country. They requested actual financial dependence in Yemeni universities, along with reconsidering scholarships and admission policies.

Discussing a report by Parliament's Higher Education Committee following field visits to Aden, Ibb and Taiz Universities, MP Sultan Al-Atwani noted that the universities are run from the outside, hinting at security leaders. He demanded the Higher Education Ministry not operate cultural attaches with a security mindset.

Al-Atwani criticized Yemen's parallel education system, maintaining that it deepens class division, is done at the risk of the poor and runs counter to Yemeni Revolution goals, which called for eliminating the gap between classes.

MP Shawqi Al-Qadhi further criticized forced pensioning of university professors when their experience increases, calling on the Yemeni government to find responsible and carefully studied resolutions. He requested assisting such teachers to remain in their homeland and serve their nation, in addition to designating internal scholarships for talented students who don't have the opportunity to study abroad.

Similarly, MPs Ali Al-Ansi and Abdu Al-Hudhaifi demanded the presence of Yemen's prime minister, along with the ministers of finance, civil service and higher education, to discuss Yemeni higher education, noting that such an issue requires the attendance of all ministers, not just university rectors.

At a Feb. 25 session, the deputy minister of higher education requested making Yemeni universities independent. He complained about the shortage of resources allocated for universities in general and scientific research in particular, noting that each university receives only YR 5 million for scientific purposes.

Parliament assigned its Higher Education Committee to sit with finance, planning and civil service ministers and representatives to look into the MPs' recommendations and how to treat the dysfunctions in Yemeni higher education.

In its report to Parliament, the committee mentioned that university curricula are outdated and don't meet the needs of the labor market. It also pointed out that students have difficulty accessing the latest and modern journals and sources, further noting the absence of means enabling students to develop their capabilities.

The report referred to the problem of crowded halls, as well as shortcomings in staff knowledge of English and computers, together with limited participation in symposiums and scientific conferences.

It also revealed a shortage of financial allocations dedicated to scientific use, including libraries, laboratories, equipment, etc. Moreover, the report noted the absence of bylaws regulating enrollment, as there are different systems for joining universities, including the regular system and the parallel system (both in Yemeni currency) and the self-funding system (in U.S. dollars). It further noted that parallel system revenues are spent on items that don't serve the universities.

According to the report, the higher education department lacks a clear strategy to develop higher education. Further, it doesn't send students to study abroad except to replace those who already have returned. This limits the number of staff, especially those with rare specializations.

It also noticed the absence of budgets to be spent on scientific research while some university staff aren't registered. Staff members accumulate at university headquarters and facilities in major cities, but are scarce in branch faculties while some departments suffer lack of staff in certain specializations.

The committee found that it's possible for universities to benefit from Yemeni staff to cover the existing shortage, thus saving huge sums of money spent on foreigners. It further assured that the Finance Ministry's routine of paying entitlements is discouraging, noting that such conduct leaves a bad effect on university professors.

Concluding its report, the Higher Education Committee revealed that, except for some courses at some locations, the universities didn't benefit from loans by the International Development Association.