The Middle East Institute is pleased to host Alisa Rubin Peled for a conversation on the role of U.S. universities in the Middle East. American higher education has been present in the region since 1866, when the American University of Beirut set the precedent for successful localization by planting roots and adapting to local society. Today, Arab governments themselves often direct and fund the cross-cultural educational export process, with far-reaching economic and social goals. For example, Qatar's U.S. branch campuses are an integral part of its broad education reform strategy designed to transform the country into a knowledge producing society. The UAE, in contrast, has adopted a business-model view of U.S. higher education. No matter what the stated goals, a historical viewpoint suggests that the results will be unpredictable, especially with regard to inevitable clashes of cultures and values over issues such as academic freedom and the role of women. Peled will discuss the models for U.S. higher education in the Middle East and examine why American universities have proliferated so rapidly in the Arab world in recent years and what role can they be expected to play following the Arab Spring.
Alisa Rubin Peled is a senior lecturer in government at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. She specializes in international political economy (with a focus on the Middle East), globalization, business-government relations and international higher education. Peled also serves as the founding academic director of the Argov Fellows Program in Leadership and Diplomacy, IDC's honors program in government, and the Tikvah Program in Political Leadership, a national leadership program for some of Israel's top students. Peled is the author of Adaptation, Ideals, Vision and Deals: The Rise of American Higher Education in the Arab World, forthcoming from Harvard University Press. Her first book, Debating Islam in the Jewish State (State University of New York Press, 2001), examines the development of Israeli policy towards the religious institutions of the Muslim minority.
Phil Frayne is the former director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Middle East Institute.