The budget of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Jordan increased by 27 percent for 2013, the ministry said.
The projected increase in spending was greeted cautiously by many professors. “The budget increase looks important; however, we have to wait to see the actual impact,” said Ali Shaker, an assistant professor of history at the University of Jordan.
“The challenge is not more money,” added Rana Dajani, a biology professor at Hashemite University. According to her, the challenge for Jordanian higher education and research improvement is creating an environment that sustains creativity and research. “This can be achieved by encouraging freedom of thinking, creating trust and building confidence.”
But the total spending for higher education and research for the current year will be 94 million dinars (about $132 million); the ministry said, up from last year’s spending of 74 million dinars (about $104 million). This year’s operating budget will be about 66 million dinars ($92 million) and capital spending will be about 28 million dinars ($39 million).
As in many Arab countries, Jordan’s investment in education has still left it with a high unemployment rate. In the fourth quarter of 2012, unemployment in the kingdom was 12.5 percent, according to the General Department of Statistics. Unemployment is unevenly distributed between women and men: 65 percent of women with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed, while only 20 percent of men with a bachelor’s degree are unemployed, according to 2010 statistics.
“There is a lack of communication between disciplines and universities,” Dajani said stressing that spending priorities should be for capacity building and restructuring curricula.
The Global Competitiveness Report’s Index for Higher Education for the year 2012-2013 ranks Jordan at 55, moving up four places from the previous year. But the rate of spending on scientific research in the country does not exceed $6 per person, compared to the global average of $2,500.
“Most of the local and global indicators are positive but higher education in Jordan still needs an extensive reform process to improve and raise the level of the sector output,” said Mr. Shaker, stressing the need for a comprehensive review of the current educational policies. According to him, reforms should start with lifting university admission requirements, increasing the salaries of faculty members, and spending more on scientific research.
In the new budget, spending for programs at colleges and public universities will go up 28 percent to 91 million dinars ($128 million). That budget will include the Jordan Public Universities Support Project, which will support building improvements and hiring new faculty members among other items, with a budget of 57 million dinars ($80 million) for 2013, an increase of 4 percent from last year. A program that gives science students scholarships to study abroad so that they can return to Jordan to teach increased by only one percent.
“We are suffering from the quantitative expansion at the expense of quality,” Attiya Mahmoud, the former dean of the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Jordan said. Jordan has ten public universities, 23 private universities, 14 colleges, 24 private colleges and 14 colleges related to the Ministry of Health, the Army and the Central Bank.
“We need to develop scientific qualitative colleges, including research centers and laboratories; to focus more on vocational technical education to meet the needs of the local market and the Arab world, especially in the software industry.” But “this could not be achieved before reconsidering the university admission criteria,” Mahmoud believes.