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Why our universities decline

Jun 28,2018 - Last updated at Jun 28,2018

As university administrators, we have been quite reluctant to write about a “heated” subject such as this because, in all honesty, it may edge into peer intellectual sensitivities! But we have decided to do so anyway, despite all possible ramifications thereafter.

Without doubt, the prosperity of any nation depends above all on the health of its higher education institutions and their comprehensiveness together with the rest of society’s civic institutions on equal footing. For that, academic institutions can be comprehensive in depth and in breadth when their faculty, staff and students have their say in academic and administrative decision-making, against the practice of a rather limited circle of administrators who are resistant to change in any form.

Such institutions fail to prosper because they fail to provide incentives (both financial and moral) that allow their intellects and gifted members to be remunerated, because they have less incentive to innovate. Comprehensive academic institutions create effective financial, psychological and academic incentives for their faculty, staff and students to innovate through enforcing the law and through providing efficient, front-line education and infrastructure. They are governed by their faculty and staff, rather than cartelised by a small number of the “select few”, and they work for the majority of people on their campus, rather than those “elites”, or the “close-at-hand circle”, which eventually lead to a miserable, damaging and unethical decent into chaos and failure. 

Because those institutions have been administrated by a rather narrow circle of the academic elites that plan for their own benefits at the expense of the rest of their colleagues, they have failed to take advantage of educated, cultured and cultivated opportunities (academic and non-academic on equal footing). Without doubt, while their failure cannot be because of the environment or culture, it must be because of missing all possible opportunities towards success that stem out of full-fledged teamwork, respect and equal-peer administration.

“Medieval”, unethical systems of “slavery” and “lying” to grow individual benefits through overlooking the rights of the majority of people on campus would undoubtedly fail to set the basis for a democratic, educated, intellectual and top-of-the-line institutions! America, for instance, has had 300 years of stability, where academic institutions surpass all other civic institutions, to the extent that they work for everyone in society, providing dependable, trustworthy and reliable opportunities for anyone to be rich and enjoy the benefits of a wealthy, educated society.

In order to progress, society needs to have non-extractive institutions to partake in the prosperity of the people, institutions that are capable of providing all-encompassing education and acceptable material infrastructure. What does not work for development is extractive institutions (including academic ones, of course) where money is extracted from one successful institution to serve another!

Higher education is essential for any improvement in an increasingly advancing world. It needs to be well-financed, and fathers and mothers need to have the incentive to send their youngsters to really good schools.

In the very near future, we will possibly have no students on campus to teach. Students seek somewhat professional jobs and their degrees are evaluated against their skills. Thus, degrees matter no more; skills do! Many of the professional jobs we are currently preparing our students for will possibly be done by machines.

What is required is a majority of voices and programmes oriented towards intellectual, technological, economic and skills empowerment, away from the select few, in anticipation of avoiding nose-diving into chaos and mess.

As a final word, what is most timely needed is some kind of a plurality of far-sighted, effective, and knowledgeable voices to be heard. It’s time more of us (ourselves included) start asking how to do this job on a large scale at a national level.

Kamal E. Bani Hani is president of the Hashemite University

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Comments

Thanks,dear Dr. Samuel, for sharing this outstanding analysis of an important issue.!

IT IS VERY NICE THAT AN ADMINISTRATOR FROM THE SAME UNIVERSITY IS SAYING THIS. IT IS ALWAYS THE FIRST SOLUTION TO ANY PROBLEM WHEN SOME ONE WITHIN THE SAME GROUP FINDS OUT THE CAUSES. THE JORDANIAN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM SHOULD BE
HAPPY TO SEE ONE OF ITS ADMINISTRATORS SAYING AND ADMITTING THAT THEY HAVE A PROBLEM. THE NEXT QUESTION IS / ARE THE CAUSES OF THESE PROBLEMS:
1) BEFORE I KEW AND CAME TO JORDAN, THERE WAS ONLY THE STATE UNIVERSITIES WITH LIMITED CAPACITY SO IT WAS EASY
TO CONTROL AND FUND. AT THAT TIME, THERE COULD HAVE BEEN NO NEEDS FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FOR SCHOOLS
TO FUND ITSELF.
2) NOW THAT THE KINGDOM HAS MANY UNIVERSITIES WHICH TECHNICALLY ARE PARTLY STILL BEING FUNDED BY THE GOVERNMENT
HAS OVER-LOADED THE SYSTEM AND THE UNIVERSITIES ARE NOT PRODUCING ANY RESOURCES EXCEEPT TUITION FEES.
3) THE BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM IS THAT MOST OF THE HEADS OF DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ARE
SELECTED BY APPOINTMENTS WITH ZERO MERITOCRACY SO WHERE WILL THE RE-ENGINEERING OF THE SYSTEM COME FROM
THE RIGHT AND QUALIFIED PERSONS ARE NOT IN THE RIGHT PLACES??
4) THE PROFESSORS ARE NOT BEING PAID WELL TO EVEN AFFORD A MINIMAL STANDARD OF LIVING SO WHY SHOULD THEY INVEST
TIME AND RESOURCES IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT TO COMPLEMENT THEIR TEACHING AND BRING THE MUCH NEEDED
RESOURCES TO KEEP THE SYSTEM AFLOAT?. I WISH THAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN STOP APPOINTMENT BY WASTERISM.
5) COMPETITION BY MERIT IS THE KEY TO BRING BACK THE OLD GOOD DAYS.

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