Project description

Current status

The project “Local, Regional and International 'Borrowing and Lending' in Social Sciences at Arab Universities”, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, was completed in February 2015. Its results will be published shortly.

Abstract

Social sciences and humanities at Arab universities are often described as suffering from a lack of academic freedom. However, institutional autonomy and the individual academic’s opportunities and constraints in Arab countries seem to differ considerably between institutions and individuals conducting social sciences and humanities research and education under different configurations of local, regional and international influences from the state, the market and the civil society.

The ongoing project is intended to explore conditions under which opportunities and constraints vary between universities in two Arab countries. We intend to investigate, through macro-analyses of their formal institutional structures and micro-analyses of how individual academics exercise them, how these institutions are affected by recent and current political changes. The focus lies on possible correlations between institutional and individual autonomy and between an institution’s autonomy and the services it offers to its clientele.

A team of four researchers, two Egyptian, one Lebanese and one German, surveyed educational and political science departments at six universities, two of them based in Lebanon and four in Egypt. In both countries, public and private universities were addressed comparatively. Data stem from student questionnaires and narrative interviews with faculty at these departments, official documents as well as gray literature. The results are intended to benefit educational planners in their strive to increase academic freedom and to advance quality in the teaching and research of social sciences, as well as individuals and institutions searching for partners for academic cooperation in the two countries.