MENA: some introductory notes

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is home to many of the world’s oldest still-functioning universities.

Khozestan, Iran, is the home to the Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, which was founded around 200 BC. Fes in Morocco has the world’s oldest continuously operating university, the University of Al-Karaouine, which was founded in 859.

Cairo in Egypt also has Al-Azhar University which was opened in 975.

The MENA region incorporates and is divided into:

  • Region 1: Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries: (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain)
  • Region 2: Other Gulf region: (Yemen, Iran)
  • Region 3: Arabic Levant region: (Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq)
  • Region 4: Arabic-speaking Africa region: (Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco)
  • Region 5: Other countries considered within MENA: Turkey, Cyprus, (and Mauritania, Somalia, Djibouti and Comoros, which are members of the Arab league).

MENA introductory notes: some key challenges, and opportunities

Challenges in MENA

  • Political and social instability and geopolitical issues can affect operations in this region.
  • Some countries in MENA encounter problems related to corruption, payment obligations, and also currency risks. There can be a lack of transparency in the way things are conducted.
  • In some cases there can also be physical security threats.
  • Excessive and difficult bureaucracy can be a problem. Uncertainty can be an issue, with a frequently changing regulatory and taxation situation.
  • Education systems and policies vary across the region.
  • The regulatory environment also varies across the MENA countries. Governments frequently issue regulatory changes that sometimes make it difficult to forecast or create firm plans.
  • Centralisation – there can be limitations in the effectiveness of public TVET institutions due to lack of autonomy from central ministries and agencies, so they cannot take decisions on key issues like partnership.
  • You will face competition against other UK-, EU-, and US-based organisations that provide education services.
  • There are constraints on professional and individual mobility across the region – there are borders, and there can be complicated visa procedures.

Opportunities in MENA

  • Many countries in MENA are among the largest oil-producing nations in the world; this drives the countries’ growth and development in various sectors, including education.
  • Many MENA governments are investing heavily in education at the moment.
  • The region has a large and growing population, with high education enrolment rates.
  • There is a growing middle class with spending power and an awareness and appreciation of the importance of good education.

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