Posted on May 06, 2015

The 5th QS-MAPLE (Middle East and North Africa Professional Leaders in Education) Conference and Exhibition drew over 300 participants including university leaders, higher education experts, and educators from over 20 countries around the world to advance discussions on the internationalization of higher education in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Themed “International Innovation and Co-operation in Higher Education”, the event was organized by Qatar University (QU) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) under the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar who gave the opening address. Among the dignitaries were Qatar Minister of Education H.E. Dr Mohammed Abdul Wahed Ali Al-Hummadi and Qatar Minister of Development Planning and Statistics H.E. Dr Saleh bin Muhammad Al-Nabit who delivered plenary addresses on “A report on Higher Education in Qatar”, and “The State of Qatar – Our Journey in Higher Education”.

The event which also fielded an exhibition by about 30 academic institutions and education-related organization, aimed to help build world-class universities for Middle Eastern and North African communities through global partnerships and collaborations, and to support the processes of institutional evaluation and upgrading that will lead to greater worldwide recognition of universities in these regions. Speeches were also delivered by QU President Prof Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, Chair of QS-MAPLE International Academic Advisory Committee and Secretary to Council and Court & Director, Knowledge, Enterprise and Analysis at City University of Hong Kong Dr Kevin Downing, and QS Asia Quacquarelli Symonds CEO Ms Mandy Mok.

In his opening speech, H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani said: “We are pleased to participate in this forum at a time when the development process of higher education is facing various challenges such as: addressing the needs of the labor market, developing human capabilities, adopting international accreditation systems, and keeping with our heritage and values. The development of the education sector is an essential pillar of the country’s ambitions towards a knowledge-based economy, in line with Qatar National Vision 2030. This highlights the importance of university-industry collaborations, as well as the partnerships between academic institutions, and the private and public sectors to establish solid fundamentals for research and to advance the higher education sector. We look forward to the positive outcomes that will emanate from the discussions on issues related to higher education.”

QU wins top awards in 2 [].jpgIn his remarks, H.E. Al-Hammadi said: “We are pleased to participate in the 5th QS-MAPLE conference to advance discussion on world university ranking. International ranking is an efficient element of a university’s development, progress and international reputation. It is important to shape a new range of ranking criteria which are proper to the region and to the institution’s mission taking into consideration whether it is a teaching institution, a research institution, or a teaching and research institution. It is also important to combine our efforts to review world ranking criteria and to promote new ranking metrics, which will contribute to sustainable approaches in advancing higher education.”

H.E. Al-Nabit said: “I thank you for your participation in this international conference that gathers university leaders and experts from countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and the Pacific with the aim to contribute in building world-class universities. Higher education is empowering. It opens-up wonderful opportunities to broaden minds, to appreciate diversity and to develop advanced knowledge and skills. With ever increased awareness of its vital importance for social, cultural and economic development there is a growing demand for quality higher education worldwide.”

In her welcoming remarks, Prof Al-Misnad said: “It is a pleasure and a privilege to welcome you to the opening of the 5th QS-MAPLE conference here in Doha. We are honoured by the Royal Patronage of H.E. the Prime Minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose attendance today signals clearly the importance placed by the State of Qatar on the growth and development of higher education in the country.”

She added: “This unwavering commitment to education is based on a vision of human development as a foundation for social and economic development. Education, health, and opportunities for gainful employment are key ingredients to a life of dignity and fulfilment. Qatar has made the education of its young men and women a national priority, and that investment will ensure the welfare and sustainability of its people for generations to come. This morning, you will hear about our achievements and challenges in higher education and our strategic vision as a nation from their Excellencies the Ministers of Education and Development Planning and Statistics. There are so many unique aspects to our journey and yet so many universal lessons to be learned.”

Dr Downing said: “On behalf of the QS-MAPLE International Academic Conference Committee, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 5th QS-MAPLE conference hosted by Qatar University, the premier national institution of higher education in a beautiful country with outstanding international ambitions. Qatar University is a leader in academic and research excellence in this fast developing region. As chair of this conference for the fifth year, I would like to express a warm personal welcome to all delegates, speakers and distinguished guests.”

QU wins top awards in 3 [].jpgMs Mok said: “We truly appreciate Qatar University’s efforts in co-hosting the QS-MAPLE conference this year for the benefit of the region. QU is committed to ensuring an enriching environment for encouraging academic excellence, volunteerism, civic responsibility and leadership. The university has been very successful in its accreditation initiatives, earning the endorsement of numerous leading international accrediting bodies as a result of aligning its colleges, programs and courses with established international standards and best practices. In addition, QU has made great efforts in incorporating research in every aspect of the academic experience. We are delighted to be co-organizing the 5th QS-MAPLE with a university that is leading economic and social development in Qatar.”

The morning’s panel discussion included a keynote address titled “Whither the Arab Liberal University?” by the President of Birzeit University Prof Khalil S Hindi, and a QS2 debate titled “Universities should only produce graduates that employers want” delivered by Qatar Shell General Manager Corporate Affairs and Deputy Country Chairman Mr Rob Sherwin, Qatar University Scholarships & Partnerships Office Director Mr Cesar Wazen, Pro Vice-Chancellor International at Central Queensland University Ms Ailsa Lamont, and Freelance Higher Education Consultant and Writer Mr John O’Leary. The outcome of the debate before the floor discussion was 80% opposed to 20% agreed; the percentage changed to 76% opposed to 24% agreed following the floor discussion.

The afternoon’s program featured five (5) session tracks on “Quality Assurance and Accreditation”, “Learning, Teaching and the Student Experience”, “ Managing Higher Education and Internationalization”, “Research strategy, Knowledge Transfer and Innovation”, and “Graduate Employability and Employer Engagement”. Participants included speakers from several institutions such as QU, Zayed University (UAE), Effat University (KSA), Ain Shams University (Egypt), The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Bahrain), Jordan University of Science & Technology (Jordan), Gulf University for Science & Technology (Kuwait), Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), City University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong), Academy of Tourism (Kyrgyzstan), Nottingham Trent University (UK), ETS Global (The Netherlands), University of Toronto (Canada), Central Queensland University (Australia), and many others.

Discussions focused on various topics such as “Developing a culture of assessment through effective change management”, “Building a stakeholder engagement program for higher education”, “The impact of higher education on labor market”, “Role of professional accreditations in institutions of higher education”, “Collaboration between education and industry to innovate training”, and “Student success through work-based learning”, among many others.

The evening’s program featured a gala dinner and an entertaining program which included a performance by harp musician Daniela Skaf, an Arabesque Jazz interlude by Doha Jazz and al-ardah performance by Al-Khyoul Group, highlighting the wealth of cultural diversity that is present in Qatar, and the links between eastern and western cultural traditions. Another highlight was the presentation of the QS MAPLE Creative Awards in which Qatar University was awarded Best Creative Booth Exhibition Design, and Silver for the Best International Student Recruitment Brochure.