When war broke out in Lebanon in 2006, Karim Seghir had to leave his teaching position at the American University in Beirut.
He then became dean of the business school at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where he then witnessed the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.
“I’ve had one war and two revolutions,” Seghir said. “You should not feel very safe around me.”
Now serving as the chancellor of Ajman University, a public institution in the United Arab Emirates, Seghir spoke to students, faculty and staff at the College of Engineering about higher education in the Middle East, comparing it to the United States’ education system on Nov. 19.
Seghir said education in the middle east has improved over the past few decades, as evidenced by a 31 percent increase in literacy between 1990 and 2018, and an eight percent increase in net enrollment between 2000 and 2010.
“Formal education is relatively new,” Seghir said. “It has improved a lot in terms of giving access to education and having people enrolled in primary education, secondary education, and higher education.”
Keya Sadeghipour, dean of the College of Engineering and a key organizer of the event, said an exchange program between Temple and Ajman University is set to begin in Spring 2020.
Two students from Ajman University will study at the College of Engineering and there will be opportunities for Temple students to study at Ajman University for the exchange program, Sadeghipour said.
“Engineering is a very international discipline,” Sadeghipour said. “So we make sure that we have a good representation from every nationality.”
Seghir praised the diversity of Temple’s student body, which is comparable to that at Ajman University, he added.
The UAE spends more of its gross domestic product per capita on education than the United States, Seghir said.
“If you compare to the US, the GCC countries have to invest much more because the system is new,” Seghir said, “Much more than in other countries like the U.S. or Europe because in the older countries, the education system is much more mature.”
Matthew McCarthy, a junior public relations major, said that he learned a lot about education in the middle east.
“I think the facts about GDP and the money spent on education were certainly shocking,” McCarthy said.
UAE universities are not liberal arts-based like U.S. universities, Seghir said. However, “students everywhere want to make positive change in the world,” he added.
Seghir also said that the UAE government fully pays for public higher education, in contrast to the U.S.
“Access to finance is not the same,” Seghir said. “Students there don’t get loans.”
Nancy Burkaw, chief of staff at Ajman University, said that education in the Emirates is egalitarian.
“It’s accessible and ready for all, which I really think is supposed to be the job of it,” Burkaw said. “If you want to go to college, you can just go.”
Thomas Strunk, a senior electrical engineering major, said he found the information in Seghir’s lecture about Ajman University and the UAE interesting.
“I learned a lot about the universities and the culture over there,” Strunk said.
Seghir said he hoped the lectures’ attendees left with a better understanding of the middle east, particularly that all middle eastern countries are not the same .
“I wanted them to see the growth that has happened, the challenges that the region is facing,” Seghir said. “And I wanted them to understand that the region is very heterogeneous.”