Follow us on
Or combine different search criteria.


Internationalization of Tertiary Education in MENA in the COVID-19 Context

  • Starts: Jan 28, 2021
  • Ends: Jan 28, 2021
  • Location: Virtual, Zoom
  • By: Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI), Qatar Foundation. In partnership with the Tethys Consortium of Euro-Mediterranean Universities, and with the participation of UNESCO.
  • Context:

    In the Mediterranean, youth are bearing the brunt of the crises and undergoing exclusion on the economic, social and political levels, with high unemployment and a lack of opportunities to take part in public life. Nevertheless, they represent the Mediterranean region’s best opportunity. A massive investment in human capital is needed, in particular in quality education, relevant not only in the local context, but also at the international level, to allow the youth to meet their aspirations by granting them access to propitious channels of opportunity both locally and abroad. The character of young people’s transitions from education to employment, from dependents to providers, will be determined by governments’ capacities to deliver relevant and quality education. The internationalization of tertiary education has an important role to play in such efforts, thanks to its capacity not only to help increase the quality of tertiary education, but also to boost students’ 21st century skills, crucial for their employability. 


    Whilst the Middles East and North Africa (MENA) region could further benefit from increased internationalization of its tertiary education sector, it has not yet taken full advantage of this opportunity. To this end, the Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI)/ World Bank recently published the report “Internationalization of Tertiary Education in MENA”. The report details the benefits of internationalization, assesses the current state of internationalization of tertiary education institutions across MENA, and provides some policy recommendations for both government and educational institutions going forward. But more broadly, recognizing the potential of the MENA region, as well as its interconnectedness with the other shores of the Mediterranean, it also aims to set the scene for the promotion of a Mediterranean space for mobility: mobility of people, ideas, knowledge and skills, for development and shared prosperity.


    One of the specificities of the MENA region is the extremely high number of refugees it hosts. While refugees can have a role to play in the internationalization of tertiary education, they face several barriers in access to that education. An important barrier is the lack of recognition of qualifications across borders and the fact that many refugees and migrants are unable to provide evidence of their qualifications and experience.


    In an attempt to remedy this issue, UNESCO has launched a “Qualifications Passport”, fostering the integration of refugees and vulnerable migrants around the globe by facilitating the recognition of their competencies and qualifications in host countries. Currently in its pilot stage, the goal of the assessments carried out in the project is to map, summarize and present available information on the refugee’s educational level, work experience and language proficiency. This document provides credible and reliable information that can be relevant in connection with applications for employment, internships, qualification courses and admission to further studies.


    More broadly – and applicable to all students – a Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education was adopted by the 40th session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2019, making it the first United Nations treaty on higher education with a global scope. The Global Convention is designed to facilitate international academic mobility and promote the right of individuals to have their higher education qualifications evaluated through fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manners.


    In parallel, the COVID-19 global pandemic will have lasting effects on tertiary education and on its internationalization. In its immediate impact, thousands of universities have been forced to close, with courses cancelled, and international students stranded in both home and host countries. In the future, due to the predicted negative economic impact and likely restrictions on international travel in a post-COVID-19 world, student and staff mobility is expected to decrease. However, the crisis may also highlight certain opportunities that institutions in the MENA region could take advantage of. For instance, more efforts could be done to expand internationalization beyond just mobility (which is only possible for a few students and scholars), towards embedding internationalization “at home”, including incorporating international dimensions into the curriculum of all students, and ICT-enabled activities such as virtual exchange.


    In the post-pandemic era, circumstances will necessitate radical changes in tertiary education institutions, some of which are already being implemented, such as moving to online learning models. And if MENA institutions are able to adapt quickly to the “new normal”, adopting new and innovative models and pushing for increased internationalization activities at institutions domestically, they may be able to find a silver lining to the crisis.



    The objective of this virtual event is to stimulate regional policy dialogue on internationalization. To this end, the event will discuss the findings of the CMI report Internationalization of Tertiary Education in MENA and provide an opportunity for tertiary education institutions to present their internationalization strategies and the responses they have developed to meet the challenges engendered by the COVID-19 crisis. The event will also provide an occasion to discuss UNESCO’s Qualifications Passport and its implications for internationalization in contexts of fragility.


    In the COVID-19 context, internationalization stands as a good tool and an opportunity for tertiary education institutions to respond to the crisis. The educational landscape has altered dramatically over the course of a few months because of the COVID-19 crisis, including the move towards massively increased online learning, yet beyond this, institutions could use the opportunity to increase certain elements of internationalization. A second key objective of this virtual event is then to discuss collectively the implications the COVID-19 crisis has for tertiary education in the region, and the response implications for institutions and systems to address the immediate and long-term challenges the crisis poses, as well as to seize the opportunities. The virtual event will allow for the launch of a regional policy dialogue, between representatives of tertiary education institutions and governments in the region, on internationalization of tertiary education going forward within this wider context.


    Targeted Audience and Participation to the Event:

    Members of the University Governance Screening Card (UGSC) network in MENA countries and of the Tethys Consortium of Euro-Mediterranean Universities, representatives of Ministries of Higher Education, higher education organizations, and other non-university tertiary education institutions from the region are strongly encouraged to take part in this event. Participation in this event will be made possible via an online connection, the link to which will be shared with registered participants, allowing them to interact by connecting directly from an electronic device with stable internet connection (headsets are highly recommended). Simultaneous interpretation will be offered in English and French.





    Please click here to watch the video recording of the online event.




    Opening Remarks


    Blanca Moreno-Dodson, Manager - CMI



    Blanca Moreno-Dodson is the Manager of the Center for Mediterranean Integration, the World Bank, Marseille, France.  She is an experienced development economist with more than twenty-four years of World Bank service, including operational work worldwide, with deeper regional expertise in Africa and Latin America.  She is accomplished in macroeconomics and fiscal policy for developing countries, with a focus on growth, inequality and poverty reduction.  She is skilled in public expenditure analysis, fiscal sustainability, public finance, tax policy reforms and transfer pricing.  Previously, she worked as junior economist at the European Union (European Commission and European Parliament).

    She has published three World Bank books: “Reducing Poverty on a Global Scale”, 2005, “Public Finance for Poverty Reduction”, 2007, and “Is Fiscal Policy the Answer? A Developing Country Perspective”, 2012, as well as numerous papers on macroeconomics, public expenditures, tax policy and growth, and other development issues, at the National Tax Association Journal, Banca d’Italia Fiscal Policy Annual Volume, Hacienda Pública Española Journal,  Bulletin of Economic Research, and the World Bank Working Papers series.  She has been guest lecturer at the Duke University Tax Executive Program and at John Hopkins University, and a frequent speaker in a variety of international Development Conferences and Workshops.

    Blanca obtained her PhD in International Economics and Finance from the Aix-Marseille II (Université de la Méditerranée) in France and her Masters in Economics from the Autónoma University of Madrid, Spain. She is fluent in Spanish, French, English and Portuguese.


    Mauve Carbonell, President, Tethys Consortium of Euro-Mediterranean Universities, Aix Marseille University



    Mauve Carbonell is a historian specializing in European construction, Jean Monnet Chair, professor-researcher at Aix-Marseille University (AMU) - UMR TELEMMe. Her work focuses on the European Communities in their early days as well as on the industrial and environmental history of Europe and the Mediterranean in the 20th century. She is a member of the steering committee of the Observatory of Euro-Mediterranean Relations (OREM) of the MMSH as well as the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence of AMU.

    She is in charge of the Master's degree in European and International Studies at the ALLSH faculty, which in 2018 has been equipped with a new multidisciplinary training course "Euro-Mediterranean Cooperation and Studies". She is also the coordinator for AMU of the joint Erasmus Mundus South European Studies (EUROSUD) Master, which welcomes every year students from all over the world. On the occasion of the 2020 General Assembly of the Téthys Consortium of Euro-Mediterranean Universities, Eric Berton, President of Aix-Marseille University, appointed Mauve Carbonell President of the Consortium.






    Francisco Marmolejo, Education Advisor, Qatar Foundation



    Francisco Marmolejo serves since February 2020 as the Education Advisor of Qatar Foundation. Previously (2012-20), he worked at the World Bank as the Global Higher Education Coordinator, based in Washington, DC., and more recently as the Lead Higher Education Specialist for India and South Asia, based in New Delhi. While at the World Bank, he served as Leader of the MENA Higher Education Governance Benchmarking Project. During 1995-2002, he served as founding Executive Director of the Consortium for North AmericanHigher Education Collaboration at the University of Arizona, where he also worked as Assistant Vice President for Engagement in the Americas. Previously, he was American Council on Education Fellow at the University of Massachusetts, Vice President of the University of the Americas in Mexico, and International Consultant at OECD in Paris. Currently, he serves on the Board of Directors of NAFSA and World Education Services, and also as member of the Academic Board of the Centre for Higher Education Internationalisation at UNICATT in Italy, and of the Editorial Board of the Internationalisation of Higher Education Journal. Also, he is the current President of the External Advisory Council of the Mexican Association for International Education. He has honorary doctorate degrees from his Alma Mater, the University of San Luis Potosi, and the University of Guadalajara, both in Mexico.


    Giulia Marchesini, Senior Partnerships Specialist, CMI




    Giulia Marchesini is Senior Partnership Specialist at the CMI, which she joined in 2014. She maintains and explores liaisons between the Center’s founding members and partners, while managing new partnerships and supporting fundraising. In addition, Giulia leads the human capital agenda, including migration and mobility components and higher education; notably, she recently led the authoring and production of the CMI-World Bank report “Internationalization of Tertiary Education in the Middle East and North Africa”. Giulia also led the implementation of the Mediterranean Forum on Energy and Climate Change, in partnership with the European Commission. Before joining the Bank, Giulia worked for the French Development Agency (AFD) in the Partnerships and Mediterranean departments. From 2012 to 2013 she was advisor to the French Ministry for Development where she was notably in charge of dialogue with the MENA region. Her experience in the MENA region also includes coordinating MENA economic and commercial issues for the French Ministry of Economy and Finances (2007-2009). Giulia holds master degrees in Public Administration from Ecole Nationale d'Administration in France, and in International Affairs and Diplomacy from the University of Bologna in Italy.



    Kerstin HOLST, Chief of Section, Migration, Displacement, Emergencies and Education, UNESCO







    Hala Dimechkie, Director, Office of International Programs, American University of Beirut



    Hala Dimechkie is the Director of the Office of International Programs (OIP) at AUB. She represents and promotes AUB internationally, and supports and disseminates international education within AUB. She is responsible for managing AUB’s international office, including international student services and study abroad programs; and for developing and maintaining international partnership agreements that relate to student, faculty and staff mobility.

    Hala has been a NAFSA member since assuming the OIP Directorship in 2014. Last year she served on the 15thh annual conference committee for the Association of International Education Administrators.  She is fluent in three languages, holds a BA in Arab Studies from the University of Exeter (UK), and an MA in History from AUB.  Prior to joining OIP, Hala spent 8 years at the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB directing its Communications Unit.



    Cesar Wazen, Director, International Affairs Office, Qatar University


    César Wazen’s interests in rankings, academic accreditation and student assessment are backed by extensive experience teaching mathematics and statistics as well as in whole-school accreditation. He holds a BSc in mathematics, a teaching diploma and a master’s in educational administration and policy studies, all from the American University of Beirut and currently pursuing doctoral studies in European and International Studies.


    Maria Amata Garito, President and Rector, International Telematic University UNINETTUNO



    Prof. Maria Amata Garito is the President and Rector of the International Telematic University UNINETTUNO. She is also Professor Emeritus of Psychotechnologies at the Faculty of Psychology of the same university. She is also a researcher, whereas her work mainly focused on the following three fields:

    • Training Structures and Methodologies;
    • Comparative Education;
    • New Technologies applied to Teaching and Learning Processes.

    She produced over two hundred publications journals related to the aforementioned research topics. She received many prizes and awards at national and international level for the activity carried out at academic level. 


    Amine Bensaid, President, Al Akhawayn University 


    Dr. Amine Bensaid is a university professor and President of Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane since November 2019.  He served as president of Mundiapolis University in Casablanca between 2011 and 2019, and as Chairman of the Board of the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (the Fulbright Commission in Morocco) between 2017 and 2020.  He holds a B.S. in Information Systems, an M.S. in Computer Engineering and a Ph.D. in Computer Science & Engineering from the University of South Florida (USF).  He’s held research assignments at the Technical University of Delft and Carnegie Mellon University.  He was a faculty member at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI), Morocco, from 1995 to 2009, where he served as department chair, dean of engineering, then VP for Academic Affairs and Research.  He was a UNDP expert on quality assurance (2002-2007).

    As a computer scientist, his research and publications have been in the areas of fuzzy pattern recognition, data mining and Arabic Computing.  He served as Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics from 1999 to 2010, and as advisor to the Chairman and CEO of MAScIR – a Moroccan institute devoted to market-driven research and technology.  His current interests focus on the role of higher education for employability and thriving of millennials in the fast-changing 21st century world.   Amine is a Fulbright Scholar a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Golden Key, Tau Beta Pi honor societies.





    Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education, UNESCO


    Stefania Giannini was appointed Assistant Director-General for Education in May 2018, becoming the top United Nations official in the field of education. In this position, she provides strategic vision and leadership for UNESCO’s Education Sector in coordinating and monitoring the implementation of the Education 2030 Agenda, encapsulated in Sustainable Development Goal 4.

    She has devoted her career to promoting education as a fundamental human right, through the importance of language, lifelong learning, culture, freedom of expression and identity, in an effort to ensure more inclusive and equal societies.

    With an academic background in the Humanities (PhD in Linguistics), Ms Giannini became Professor of Linguistics in 1992 and served as Rector of the University for Foreigners of Perugia (2004 – 2012), being one of the first female Rectors and the youngest at that time in Italy.

    During these years, Ms Giannini coordinated a number of relevant international projects in the field of higher education and research, contributing to the improvement of university cooperation between Europe and several other countries, from the United States to countries in Asia as well as the Middle East and North Africa region.  

    At the same time, she was member of the Selection Committee of the Erasmus Mundus programme in Brussels (2005 – 2009), the person responsible for international relations in the Committee of The Conference of Italian University Rectors (2006 – 2010) and a member of the National Commission for the Promotion of Italian Culture Abroad at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2006 – 2011).

    Later on, in her role as Senator of the Republic of Italy (2013 – 2018) and Minister of Education, Universities and Research (2014 – 2016), she developed and implemented a structural reform of the Italian education system, centred on social inclusion and targeting cultural awareness.

    Ms Giannini also chaired the Education and Competitiveness Council of the European Union during the Italian Presidency (July – December 2014), working to promote the importance of creativity, cultural heritage and innovation as tools for dialogue between diverse populations, with a view to preventing radicalization and extremism.

    In addition to her current position as UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Education, Ms Giannini is Advisor to the European Commissioner for Research and Innovation as well as a member of the Atlantis Group of the Varkey Foundation and of RISE (Research, Innovation and Science Policy Experts).


    Keiko Miwa, Regional Director, Human Development, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank


    Keiko Miwa is World Bank’s Regional Director for Human Development covering the Middle East and North Africa region. Prior to this position, she was the Director for the Education Global Practice of the World Bank. Keiko has worked on various education projects and analytical work in Africa, East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Central Asia and South Asia Regions. She served as Manager for Education in South Asia region as well as Country Manager for Lao PDR. Keiko has spent half of her career working in country offices, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Lao PDR. Her professional interest includes education in fragile and conflict-affected states. Keiko holds a Ph.D. in Educational Policy and Administration Studies from the State University of New York at Albany.