MANAMAH, Bahrain—To save money, the University of Bahrain has dismissed local professors and replaced them with foreign professors who often earn lower salaries, an administration source says. But that has resulted in a backlash from students, who complain about the difficulty of communicating with the new, less experienced professors.
“It doesn’t seem we will pass this year successfully as usual,” said Abdullah Zamu, a third-year civil-engineering student. “The university has hired some Turkish professors this year, who haven’t mastered English. Their accent is not clear and they give their lectures in an incomprehensible way.”
The University of Bahrain, the biggest university in the Kingdom, has suffered from a financial crisis since 2011. The budget deficit for the academic year 2015/2016 is 4,806,000 dinars ($12.7 million), while the university’s general expenses reached 63,656,000 dinars ($168 million).
The university, which has 22,000 students, receives subsidies from the government for 80 percent of its budget. Other money comes from tuition, seminar revenues, books, donations, and corporate and organizational payments for advertisements. But the government said this year that it was going to cut the university’s budget due to dropping oil prices and the resulting financial crisis witnessed by the Gulf region.
“The university asked for an increase in its financial allocations to improve the educational quality and establish more projects, but was surprised with the decision of decreasing the budget, said an official at the University of Bahrain, who declined to be identified as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
The official said that most of the University’s budget is spent on salaries. “The shortage in the university budget might be the main reason for hiring professors with a lower academic level,” he said. But he emphasized that the university believes improving the educational quality is important and that the university gives special attention to student evaluations of professors. “We stopped using the services of one of our professors two years ago because of the students’ comments,” he said.
The university has about 860 faculty members. Sixty percent of them are Bahrainis. The university has hired more professors from Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria, the official said, because they earn lower salaries compared to professors coming from other countries.
The process for hiring university professors depends on the need of the faculty in the first place. The selection process is based on the academic certificates of the candidates and their teaching experience, in addition to their references. “If a candidate is recommended by distinguished figures, of course this would be highly taken into consideration,” he added.
Engineering students said in interviews that some professors have been getting very bad assessments for six years, but the university is not replacing them with new staff members in spite of the complaints.
“I went to the evaluation center in the university and I filed a complaint against some professors,” said a law student. “I got nothing back but a promise to follow up on my complaint.”
In 2009, the University opened a center for evaluation, assessment, and academic development with the aim of assessing the teaching performance of the faculty.
“The evaluation is mere ink on paper; nobody takes our comments or views into consideration,” the law student said.
The teaching situation is similar at the faculty of commerce, students said, with some lecturers focusing on theoretical aspects and ignoring practical exercises.
At the faculty of mass communication, students complain about the old-fashioned curriculum used in teaching journalism.
“There is a huge time gap and generation gap between us and our professors. We want to learn new mass media, multimedia reporting, and data journalism, whereas our professors insist on teaching us old principles of print journalism,” said Ali Mounir, a third-year student at the Faculty of Mass Communication.
A professor in the public relations and information department at the university who is not authorized to speak with journalists said, “There are always exaggerated complaints by students against professors. We are not angels, but there are no angels in any university around the world. We try to do our best to make everything new and useful for students.”
The professor admitted to noticing that some professors only want to run through their lessons and leave the classroom. Such faculty members, the professor said, aren’t particularly interested in listening to students or helping them be creative. But, the professor said, the students may have to look for a solution to their problems outside the university.
Another professor said that students who want better educational service should go to a private university: They should not expect a great education at cheap prices from a public university.
The university administration refused to answer the inquires of Al-Fanar Media or comment on students’ complaints.
“We do not want to dismiss any professor, but we are really sad about the current status of our university,” Zamu said. “Thus, the administration has to listen to us.”