GCC university staff report feeling positive about the future of Higher Education in the GCC despite expecting ‘a new normal’ in post Covid education
Schools and Universities are opening their doors this month to students after 6 months away. Whilst this ‘opening of doors’ for many may, in fact, be virtual, the Higher Education team at Inspire Selection recently surveyed a group of GCC Higher Education Professionals to get their thoughts on how the pandemic will change how they deliver Higher Education in the region.
Interestingly, the respondents believe that headcount of academic staff will be reduced as a result of Covid but are less sure that student recruitment will be affected mainly because of the acceptance that online/distance learning is now a ‘norm’.
Recruitment of academic staff in Higher Education establishments was described by one respondent as ‘cautious’ and ‘very difficult’ for other GCC establishments who are dealing with border closures and the halting of new visas.
When asked about in person lectures – only 35% of respondents thought that they would take place in term one, however, for the rest of the academic year a more positive 74% of people believed that students would be getting at least some of their lectures in-person, either full time or via a blended approach.
Despite the changes in place, the majority of respondents believe that it will still be possible to deliver quality Higher Education in the region, although there is caution, many believe that it will take time and a lot of hard work to adapt to the transition and keeping all safe is of upmost importance.
One respondent commented ‘With proper quality assurance management tools and measures in place the quality of program delivery should not be compromised. However, that said, a lot needs to be done in relation to this, for example, in the area of remote assessments.’
Teaching staff were expected to get up to speed very quickly with the technology and the many challenges associated with distance learning as well as finding innovative ways of delivering excellent education whilst being flexible enough to prepare for a ‘blended learning’ model.
Whichever method will be used to deliver the education it is widely acknowledged that the workload of staff members has increased hugely – the teaching load has increased adding more burden to the academic staff, however, research time has decreased.
Unfortunately, over 60% of the respondents believe that the changes that have been put into place will mean that the students won’t get the same experience as they would have done before the pandemic, missing out on the social aspects and the personal interaction with professors as well as the extra-curricular activities being cited as the main reasons.
Students in the wrong the time-zone or poor internet connections has also been recognised as a problem, many who have been distance learning in remote areas have struggled to access all of the learning in real time, which has thrown up many more challenges and required establishments to be more innovative in the way they deliver the learning.
The respondents were split over whether or not they think that things will return to the way it was before – due to the way that Higher Education is continually changing and developing many believe that elements will remain, but hoping that face-to-face learning will return with a blended approach through some online learning.
It is promising and not surprising that not one respondent reported feeling negative about the future of Higher Education in the GCC.
The challenges that lie ahead will be huge, more innovation at breakneck speed will be required to ensure that Higher Education in the region continues to offer excellence.
As universities stretch the boundaries of innovation to complement their usual education style, administrators and management battle with how to keep ‘the business’ efficient. Deciding where to invest in areas such as technology and salaries whilst trying to balance the increased teaching workload yet less access and funding for research.
There has been an increased uptake of Artificial Intelligence – eye tracking software in particular – which is being used during exams to identify any possible attempts at cheating and adapting exam questions to make it less likely for the age long plagiarism.
It is apparent, with strong leadership and vision, Higher Education in the region continues to move forward by collaboration with peers and facing the challenges head-on.
If you need help with any resource planning or would like to talk to our team in more depth about the changes at your establishment – please contact:
Elaine Hardman | Director – Executive Search & Recruitment
Office: 00971 4 368 0852
Mobile/Whatsapp: 00971 50 298 1653
Thank you to the many respondents who took the time to complete the survey and a special thanks to David Schmidt – President – The American University in Dubai and Armin Eberlein – Deputy Rector for Academic Affairs – German University of Technology in Oman.