There is a growing need in Jordan for universities to establish joint programs with overseas universities in countries such as the United Kingdom and to uphold partnerships with universities in the United States, Europe, and the Gulf states. Public universities are already highly regarded. Private universities are also seeking partnerships or joint programs with foreign institutions. So far, the Higher Education Council has not placed any restrictions or regulations on such arrangements, but all academic agreements with overseas universities have to be vetted by the Ministry of Higher Education. As depicted in Chart 1, the United States, Canada, the American universities in Cairo and Lebanon, and European universities are the main competitors in the market.

Nevertheless, Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education is hesitant to give accreditations to international universities to operate in the country, especially those which are completely foreign-funded and supported. The Ministry wants all functioning universities in Jordan to be under its umbrella and its accreditation legislation. To compensate for the lack of international presence, one of its policies is to sign cooperation programs between public Jordanian universities and international institutions, such as the cooperation between the University of Jordan and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GTZ,[1] the International Program for Foreign Students, and the Council for International Education Exchange (CIEE).[2] This program aims to prepare the students to understand the practices and procedures of international trade,[3] and to enable them to become more confident in dealing with the international community in general.

There were cases of international universities opening their doors in Jordan and having to close them after a year or two when they were unable to obtain their accreditation from the Ministry. For example, none of the four international universities which applied to the Ministry for accreditation in Jordan in 1997 — the American University of the Middle East, the American University of Amman, Fatima Al-Zahra University, or the American University of Aqaba — have been approved.

Overseas universities have the right to operate in Jordan only if they do so in partnership with a Jordanian university, and are subject to an agreement made with the Higher Education Council. At present, there are nine such programs, mainly at the postgraduate level, involving nine different foreign universities and five Jordanian universities.

As the following examples of recent developments in program and provider mobility attest, Jordan’s higher education system is engaged in the process of internationalization:

  • The German-Jordanian University was established three years ago and operates through a joint management contract between the governments.
  • The British-Jordanian University and Vatican University are under development.
  • The establishment of the American University for Marine Sciences and Environment-related subjects in Aqaba is in discussion.
  • The University of Jordan plans to open a branch campus in Yemen and already has opened a campus in Aqaba.
  • The University of Jordan allows its students to study for a semester or year abroad and have their overseas studies accredited to their Jordanian degree.
  • Amman Open University offers a distance-learning program.
  • The New York Institute for Technology is functioning under the accreditation of the University of Science and Technology.
  • Mut’ah University signed an agreement with the University of Huddersfield in 2009 to offer a Master’s degree program in Marketing. This program allows students wishing to complete their higher studies in Jordan in marketing to do so without travelling abroad.
  • The Erasmus Program encourages many Jordanian students to pursue two-year Master’s or joint degrees in Europe.
  • The increased mobility of students and teachers, both internally and abroad, means that there are a large number of Arab and foreign teachers who are working at Jordanian public and private universities.

The increasing demand for obtaining foreign qualifications is a major reason for opening the national education market to international institutions of higher education. Students are aware that obtaining an internationally recognized qualification can vastly improve their career chances, lengthen the duration of their job contracts, boost their wages, and further their education. Cross-border education in this case may save the expenses of obtaining these qualifications abroad.

The main reason for the accelerated expansion of joint programs is Jordan’s participation to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which resulted in the lifting of barriers on importing and exporting services, including education services at all levels.[4] Since signing the GATT agreements, Jordan has taken advantage of and has profited from cross-border education. According to the GATT agreements, the focus on facilitating academic mobility is defined in the four modes of trade of any service. These modes are known as “modes of supply” and apply to the services sector in the GATT agreements. All these modes are to be seen in the Jordanian higher education system (Table 1).

As a GATT member, Jordan opened its education sector, enabling the higher education market to flourish and making education accessible on an international level. Foreign students can study in Jordan, and there are incentives for other higher education providers to invest in the country. Cross-border education is expected to grow due to the demands of the Jordanian people to receive higher qualifications. This explains the increased number of virtual universities and programs offered in the country and why the Ministry allows them to function.

However, while Jordan has actively encouraged imports of higher education in a variety of forms, it has strong reservations about making formal or binding commitments for all of the modes of delivery. As indicated in the Higher Education Accreditation Commission’s (HEAC) 2009 General Framework of Joint Programmes (Articles 1-14), Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education will not license or accredit new providers simply on the grounds that they have an affiliation agreement with a recognized domestic institution, disregarding the provider’s state of accreditation in its home nation. This attitude is related to a major concern of the Ministry regarding internationalization, namely, the possible loss of sovereignty over a sector that is considered vital to the country’s identity (i.e., its language and culture).

The majority of Jordanians and Jordanian higher education institutions appear to share the Ministry’s preference for controlled internationalization of higher education. For example, some Jordanian universities conduct their medical sciences and engineering curricula in English. Nevertheless, there are major concerns about the internationalization of the Jordanian higher education sector regarding quality assurance in distance learning in particular and in the recognition of its qualifications. In the normal cases of students studying abroad, the Ministry controlled their obtained certificate by controlling the provider, but when the students receive their certificate via distance education programs, there is a risk that the student is dealing with a fake provider, or a so-called “rogue university.”[5] Since the providers have no physical presence, it is impossible to control their licensing and the accreditation of their programs as well as student registration. Many of these providers are operating as “degree mills” where they award certificates according to student curriculum vitae, with no or minimal course work; they could just be web-based companies (providers) who simply sell certificates. Consequently, the emergence of cross-border education and its successful extension have introduced new groups of providers and new modes of supply which need close review in regard to quality-control legislation.

There are groups in Jordan, mainly comprised of academics, who oppose the internationalization of higher education. According to Sameh Abu Magly, higher education in Jordan is in a “state of chaos.”[6] Moreover, he regards internationalization as a threat to the national identity, values, and quality of the Jordanian educational system. He is concerned that Jordanian higher education might be dominated by virtual education providers focused on profiteering. The opponents of internationalization argue that it will lead to a decrease in the quality of education received by graduates since it is not possible to control the quality of the providers.

Jordanian higher education is on the path of internationalization, and the quality question remains a challenge — one faced by all countries involved. Over the long term, Jordan could benefit from this trend if it could play the role of an exporter, not merely as an importer of these services. Internationalization could also help raise the awareness of its universities and students for intercultural and multicultural understanding. Nevertheless, there is a fear that this increased availability of foreign qualifications will release a new wave of credentialism.

Conclusion

Whereas global education in the sense of independent international universities located in Jordan does not exist, global education in term of joint programs does. As a matter of fact, Jordan may be a pioneer in this field. Jordan has integrated e-learning tools into its universities. The Ministry and the HEAC strongly believe that Jordan should be part of global education, not isolated from it. However, other issues requiring immediate attention must be tackled before locating independent European, American, or international universities in the country.[7]

Meanwhile, however, Jordan has responded to the increasing social demands at all levels and in all forms of higher education by the accreditation of joint program universities and new fields of study and by granting domestic universities greater autonomy. Jordan has thereby become an attractive alternative center of higher education in the region for many students from many different countries and a partner in many higher education programs with foreign universities.

 


[4]. Munir Bashshur, The Impact of Globalization and Research in the Arab States, 2nd Regional Research Seminar for Arab States, Rabat, Morocco, May 25−26, 2007, Summary Report, UNESCO Forum on Higher Education, Research, and Knowledge (2007), p. 6.

[5]. “Rogue universities or providers” are those not recognized by the accreditation/licensing bodies in either the sending or receiving countries, are commonly known as low-quality providers, and are often accredited by self-accrediting groups or by agencies that sell accreditation. Jane Knight, “Cross-Border Education as Trade: Issues for Consultation.”

[6]. Sameh Abu Magly, “Developing Higher Education, A Future View,” research paper presented at the conference on “Jordanian Higher Education: Between Reality and Ambition,” May 17–18, 2000, Zarqa Private University, Jordan. (Arabic Edition).

[7]. Personal interview with Dr. Klaif Altarahwneh, President of the Higher Education Accreditation Commission (HEAC), November 2, 2009, Amman, Jordan.