Regional Conferences
Beirut Declaration on Higher Education in the Arab States for the XXIst Century

Arab Regional Conference on Higher Education
Beirut, Lebanon, 2 - 5 March 1998

We, the participants to the Arab States Regional Conference on Higher Education for the XXIst Century, held in Beirut, Lebanon, from 2 to 5 March 1998,

1. Recalling the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that ‘higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit’ (article 26.1), and that such ‘education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms’ (article 26.2); Ratifying the contents of the Convention on the struggle against discrimination in the field of education (1960), which states that the Signatory States commit themselves ‘to ... offer all people alike higher education on the basis of a real equality and to the skills of each individual ...’ (article IV);

2. Recognizing the importance of the analysis and recommendations of the UNESCO Policy Paper for Change and Development in Higher Education, the International Commission on Education for the XXIst Century, and the World Commission on Culture and Development;

3. Pointing out the view of the International Commission on Education for the XXIst Century that education throughout life should be based on four pillars: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be, and that universities have a duty to carry out research that should contribute to solving the most serious problems facing developing countries;

4. Taking into account the recommendations made in United Nations, via (a) An agenda for peace, that contains principles and suggestions bearing on the preventive measures that will protect peace, as well as effective actions for restoring peace when uncontainable conflicts emerge, and (b) An agenda for development, that sets the conceptual bases for fostering a sustainable and permanent human development. Also highlighting the need of the Region for a just and comprehensive peace allowing for learning opportunities for all and pacing the way for the attainment of development;

5. Noting that the Arab States share common historical, language and cultural traditions and heritage, yet they show diversity with regard to demography, economic means, and educational traditions;

6. Pointing out that the globalization of economies and professional services and the rapid growth and in-depth transformation of information and communication technologies have resulted in increased demands for specialized professionals in every endeavour of life capable of sustaining high standards, calling for an increased appreciation of the role of higher education in the development and advancement of societies and for a revision of training and working methods of higher education graduates;

7. Acknowledging that significant progress has been made in recent years in the development and strengthening of higher education in the Arab States, leading to improved student access and more equitable representation of different social groups among graduates;

8. Supporting the initiative taken by H.R.H. Prince Talal bin Abdel-Aziz Al-Saud concerning the establishment of an Open Arab University as a model for unifying Arab efforts in the field of higher education;

9.  Emphasizing the recommendations of the six ALECSO conferences of Ministers responsible for Higher Education and Scientific Research in Arab States since 1981, and those of the Fifth Regional Conference of Ministers of Education and those Responsible for Economic Planning (Cairo, 1994);

10. Noting that the main issues in higher education in the Arab States encompass the following:

a-  Higher education in the Arab States is under considerable strain, due to high rates of population growth and increasing social demand for higher education, which lead states and institutions to increase student enrolment, often without adequate allocated financial resources;

b-  A number of Arab States are facing blockade, occupation, and external impediments and constraints limiting the expansion and development of higher education;

c-  Although general rate of female enrolment in higher education is close to those observed at the international level, all Arab States look up to increasing this rate;

d-  Management of higher education institutions is still heavily centralized, calling for more flexibility and for the participation in decision-making of all concerned parties;

e-  The lack of close links between higher education institutions and general education and between universities and other post- secondary institutions, and weaknesses in students' orientation into the various streams of higher education on the basis of their skills and interests, have contributed to inflated enrolment in some disciplines and to obvious lower enrolment in applied and technological disciplines, to low internal efficiency, and to low quality of graduates, and led to pressures on institutions to provide remedial programmes in order to improve the quality of enrolled students;

f-   Higher education institutions have, in most cases, not developed adequate programmes and projects to serve local communities and participate in their development;

g-  The development of private and open universities, and of non-university institutions, is recent in most of the Arab States, and, thus far, has not alleviated pressures on public universities in such a manner as to permit the development, the diversification, and the expansion of higher education;

h-  Status and conditions of higher education teaching personnel, while enormously varied among Arab States, do not often match some of the international standards as set in the Recommendation concerning the Status and Conditions of Higher Education Teaching Personnel adopted in 1997 by UNESCO General Conference;

i.   Higher education institutions should be more sensitive to students' concerns, taking into account their needs in all endeavours of life during years of study, as to selection, curricula, teaching, and transition to working life. These institutions should allow students and their representatives to actively participate in decision-making concerning their academic and social life within the institution;

j-   There is a need to promote new teaching and learning processes that better serve the development of scientific thinking skills;

k-  As a result of international developments in science and technology, new demands have emerged for teaching personnel and researchers to increase co-operation with industry, and for continuing education of graduates;

l-   Lack of highly qualified graduates in some disciplines is often accompanied with unemployment and under-employment of great numbers of graduates in other disciplines, while significant numbers of highly qualified Arab scholars lead academic careers abroad with little impact on higher education and scientific research in the Arab States;

In view of the above, we do hereby declare the following:

1. Higher education is essential for any country to achieve sustainable and global development. It is also essential for the enhancement of citizens' participation in public life, for social mobility, and for the achievement of harmony, justice, and just and comprehensive peace, at both internal and international levels, on the basis of the respect for human rights, active participation of citizens, and mutual respect.

2. Higher education should aim at the following: (a) to educate well-aware, autonomous and responsible citizens committed to national and universal principles, capable of dealing with the challenges of the Century and of lifelong learning, (b) to provide highly trained professionals to meet the needs of government, the professions, and the productive and service sectors, (c) to provide expertise to assist in economic and social development, and in scientific and technological research, (d) to help conserve and disseminate national and regional cultures, drawing on the contributions from each generation, (e) to provide critical and detached perspectives concerning the strategic options and to contribute to human renewal by active contribution to the production of scientific knowledge, taking into account ethical issues, and addressing planetary challenges (such as population growth, peace, environment, etc.), (f) to undertake research and scholarship which contribute to the understanding, the anticipation and the solving of the most serious problems of the Region.

3. Determined efforts are necessary to further increase access to higher education to all groups of society. Open learning systems and other systems of education relying on modern technology can play a major role in widening access and can contribute to higher cultural achievements of Arab States citizens, if they are provided with the means to ensure quality. Diversification of institutions and programmes can also play a significant role on alleviating the strains put on traditional institutions by the ever growing social demand for higher education due to rapid growth rate of population and appeal of higher education for large sectors of society.

4. Arab States should devote determined efforts to improve general education as to ensure that graduates of this level of education master the essential competencies needed for life, including those necessary for the pursuit of higher education endeavours. Higher education institutions should actively participate in the efforts leading to improvement of pre-university education.

5. Arab States and their higher education institutions should adopt specific national and institutional plans of action in order to increase the participation in higher education of disadvantaged groups at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly females and the citizens under strenuous conditions due to occupation or blockade. They should work in co-operation with regional and international agencies in order to provide learning opportunities to deprived students and to permit them enrolment in higher education institutions within their countries.

6. All higher education systems and institutions should give a high priority to ensuring the quality of programmes, teaching, and outcomes. Structures, procedures, and standards for quality assurance should be developed at the regional and national levels commensurate with international guidelines while providing for variety according to the specificities of each country, institution, or programme. Further, higher education institutions need appropriate financial and human resources to achieve higher quality of education.

7. Modern information and communications technology (ICT) is already making radical changes in methods of teaching and learning in higher education by both on-campus and distance education students. It has the potential to make positive impact on quality, relevance, access and cost of higher education, if direct access to technical and cultural information resources is provided, and rapid communication among teachers and researchers is facilitated. These technologies allow for the establishment of networks between institutions and scholars and enhance their development and efficiency. They also contribute in the provision of courses and degree-awarding programmes through multiple and advanced means, thus breaking through the traditional barriers of space and time. The virtual capacity of these developments in teaching tools is almost limitless for improving distance, open and life-long learning, if the adequate conditions are ensured.

8. Access to scientific knowledge is an essential element of cultural and intellectual understanding and the further development of higher education institutions. With the increased emergence of digitalization and the increasing reliance on communication technologies as a means of storage and transfer of scholarly information, open and affordable access to communication networks becomes an important and indispensable element of quality of higher education institutions and programmes. Governments of Arab States should ensure that informatic and communication network infrastructure, personal computer facilities, and human resources training, now a globally recognized prerequisite for the normal functioning of higher education institutions and research centers, are adequately provided. Regional and international co-operation and development organizations are called upon to allocate technical and financial resources to support these developments in the Arab States.

9. While recognizing that globalization is a trend that could not be ignored nor avoided, it should not lead to dominance of some cultures and value systems on some others, nor to the emergence of new forms of hegemony. To this effect, it is of vital importance that every effort should be made to protect and promote the strengths of the Arab and Islamic culture and civilization as part of the major intellectual cultures in the world; at the same time, dialogue and cultural exchanges between the Arab States and the other world states should be maintained.

10. The concept of lifelong learning is of utmost importance. In rapidly changing economies, the labour market will constantly require new and various skills. Hence, mechanisms must be developed at higher education level to allow workforce in all fields to upgrade their skills and develop new competencies at regular intervals throughout their lives. Higher education institutions must offer learning opportunities in response to diverse and new demands and work co-operatively with other agencies and employers to ensure that appropriate and flexible programmes and courses are widely available and accessible to all citizens who need to update their knowledge and skills in order to effectively deal with such matters as population, labour, environment, etc. At the same time, higher education must take a leading role in the evolution of the world of work to better meet sustainable development requirements.

11. The involvement of all key stakeholders in decision-making in higher education institutions is of utmost importance, particularly the academics, the students, and the productive and service sectors, alongside with representatives of governmental agencies. Experience has demonstrated the value of such participation in enlightening the visions necessary for decision-making and the formulation of balanced higher education policy, both system wide and institutionally.

12. In view of its multiplier effects on social, cultural and economic development, public funding of higher education should be considered as an investment, the return of it being as much important as investment in all sectors. However, better use of allocated resources and other funding sources must be sought after as well as developing partnerships with the private sector and the society.

13. Co-operation among the Arab States, especially in higher education, through academic exchanges, twinning and networking arrangements, can make significant contributions in addressing major higher education policy matters, and facilitating the sharing of pioneering expertise and experiences. Arab co-operation is made easier in view of the common linguistic and cultural heritage of the Arab States. This co-operation should be reinforced especially at graduate studies, scientific research programmes, institutional research and development.

14. Freedom of movement of students and access to academic institutions across Arab States frontiers will strengthen the Arab cultural development and contribute efficiently to Arab integration in higher education.

15. There is a pressing need to develop a plan of action and guidelines to further develop higher education in the Arab States, especially related to the key issues of relevance, quality, management and finance, and co-operation which are defined as follows:

RELEVANCE refers to the fit between what higher education institutions provide and what society expects from them. Relevance requires from higher education to make an enhanced contribution to the development of the society as a whole, encompassing the development of the education system. Relevance also requires reciprocal harmonization with the world of work and the requirements of sustainable global development. Relevance requires higher education to contribute to the preservation, the enlargement, the deepening, and the dissemination of knowledge in such a manner as to help humankind solve the problems it faces. It also requires safeguarding cultural diversity, the quest for just and global peace and respect of human rights.

QUALITY refers to standards of inputs, processes, and outputs of a system, an institution, or a programme. It has no meaning without relevance. Quality is a multi-dimensional concept and embraces all the functions and activities of higher education, i.e. academic programmes, research, and community services, in all their features and components: infrastructure, equipment, human resources, students, objectives, nature and content of programmes, delivery modes and implementation practices, academic and socio-cultural environment, etc. Quality mechanisms are implemented through continuous assessments and comparisons between observed and intended processes and constant search for the sources of dysfunctions to correct them.

MANAGEMENT AND FINANCE cover, on one hand, issues related to internal management of institutions, funding and resources, and, on the other hand, the relations of higher education institutions with the state, and other stakeholders. Higher education authorities and institutions need to adopt long-term strategies aiming at embodying the institutions in the whole social tissue they serve, i.e. the Governmental bodies, the professions, the education sector, the productive and service sectors, and the socio-cultural environment. As for financing, despite the general trend towards diversifying sources of funding, governmental support for higher education and research remains essential to ensure achievement of educational and social missions of educational institutions. Furthermore, with the extension of private investment in higher education, appropriate mechanisms of accreditation and monitoring should be developed to guarantee access, equity, quality, and the rights of students.

CO-OPERATION at the national, regional, and international levels through advanced methods and mechanisms fit for the XXIst Century is essential for higher education institutions in order for them to adequately fulfill the missions entrusted with them.

PLAN OF ACTION

Based on the principles, observations, and recommendations set out in the Declaration on Higher Education in the Arab States for the XXIst Century adopted by the Conference, and considering the need for the renewal of systems through the adoption of new policies and paradigms for higher education founded on such concepts as globalization of knowledge, lifelong learning, sustainable development, preservation of cultural diversity, transparency and accountability, and involvement of all stakeholders, the following recommendations were adopted by the Conference:

First:  The Arab States must fulfill their commitments to higher education and meet the pledges made at regional and international conferences with regard to the provision of adequate structures and human and financial resources as to enable higher education to adequately face the challenges of the XXIst Century. This includes the following:

a) setting up of policies and legislations as well as establishment of effective mechanisms dealing with the overall governance of higher education system and institutions, with due consideration to the promotion of institutional autonomy and the participation of all sectors concerned;

b) establishment of rules and regulations to ensure the protection, at higher education institutions, of basic rights (e.g., access by merit, equality of treatment, etc.) and freedoms, especially academic freedom;

c) establishment of accountability measures proper to achieve stated goals, and to ensure quality of inputs, processes and outcomes;

d) enabling higher education institutions fulfill their multiple duties towards society;

e) providing for modern communication technology in order to ensure unconditional access to accumulated human knowledge;

f) promoting partnerships with industry, and productive and service sectors, and other governmental or non-governmental relevant institutions.

Second:  Higher education institutions must define their missions in harmony with the overall aims and principles as defined by the Declaration and Plan of action approved by the Conference. These missions should be translated into well-defined objectives, with allocation of the required resources, and the establishment of concrete mechanisms proper to ensure adequate monitoring and evaluation of progress and achievements based on observable indicators. A framework for evaluation and monitoring should thus be established and strengthened in all institutions, with proper structures and resources.

Third:  Joint Action Plans must be established to ensure the further development of higher education in the Arab countries, optimize efficiency, and prevent duplication of efforts. Co-operation between organizations which promote the development of human resources, particularly within the framework of institutionalized networks, at the global, regional, and national levels, offers great potentials for the enhanced mobilization of resources. Responsibility for this mobilization lies on international and regional organizations dealing with inter-university co-operation, as well as the associations of universities and higher education institutions, private and public universities, institutions of research, development organizations and agencies, governmental and non-governmental institutions. Concerned agencies active in the Arab Region, particularly ALECSO, ISESCO, ABEGS, the Association of Arab Universities, the Arab Federation of Councils for Scientific Research, and the Arab Federation for Technical Education, could play an important role in strengthening existing networks and in building new regional networks leading to the solution of pressing problems of higher education and of the societies of the Arab States. The Association of Islamic Universities, and other cross-regional and international organizations could also play a role in finding solutions to problems of common interests. Partnerships with world organizations and institutions are particularly sought after. The mass media should also be called on to support these initiatives.

Fourth:  UNESCO, through the joint efforts of Headquarters, Regional Offices, and its centres, institutes or units specialized in higher education in other regions, in co-operation with other UN agencies such as UNDP and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Higher Education NGOs, and UNESCO Chairs and Networks, must reinforce its programmes of higher education in the Arab States, including its contribution to the development of the whole education system. In particular, UNESCO must reinforce its unit in Higher Education at its Beirut Office, so that this may, in conjunction with the other relevant bodies and units:

a) encourage studies, projects and research activities to support the elaboration of public policies and other initiatives related to higher education, and promote public understanding of the value of higher education. In particular, UNESCO should sponsor regional projects aiming at (1) the development and implementation of new ideas concerning the governance of higher education systems and institutions, (2) the development and sustainable implementation of a framework for quality assurance, (3) the implementation of structures dealing with research and institutional development, (4) the elaboration of common understandings as regards to the role, functions and functioning of higher education private institutions, and (5) the elaboration of programmes aiming at establishing close links between social problems and concerns and higher education institutions and support for their implementation;

b) provide managers of higher education with opportunities for the discussion of issues, current problems, and long-term challenges related to higher education;

c) foster training for teaching personnel and managers of higher education institutions;

d) co-ordinate the implementation of UNESCO/UNITWIN Chairs Programme in the Arab States and, in particular, stimulate the development of centres of excellence, through the creation of specialized networks, with special attention given to networks for distance education, teachers training, the utilization of information and communication technologies, and institutional development in higher education;

e) work in partnership with regional and international organizations, associations, and networks.

In addition, UNESCO is called upon to reinforce its current programmes, carried out by the UNESCO Cairo Office, for assisting Arab universities in developing their co-operation infrastructure and acquiring the knowledge and skills of information and communication technologies and in using these technologies for upgrading the quality of their teaching in fundamental and applied sciences.

Member States and donor organizations of the Arab Region are called upon to support UNESCO to enable it carry on the above mentioned programmes and activities for the benefit of all Arab States.

Fifth:  The elaboration of decisions and plans taken by all the bodies mentioned above should be based on the principles stated below.

1- RELEVANCE

i.  Access to higher education

1. Arab governments must expand and diversify opportunities for every citizen to upgrade his or her qualifications and develop higher-level personal, academic and citizenship competencies such as those provided in higher education institutions. Appropriate strategies should be elaborated and implemented and serious efforts should be made to increase participation rates in higher education, particularly for those already involved in the world of work or drop-outs of the educational system, through flexible programmes and schedules, allowing for part-time study and diversified short qualifying or diploma-driven programmes.

2. Distance education and open learning constitute important alternative delivery systems of higher education. Governments shou ld provide the legislative and regulatory frameworks in order for such schemes to be developed. They also should encourage such initiatives and facilitate their operation through easy access to modern communication networks and recognition of the qualifications earned without neglecting the basic requirements for quality assurance and the relevance of outcomes.

ii. The world of work

3. In order to facilitate the elaboration of national educational plans and to improve the capacity of higher education institutions to align their policies with national priorities, governments should create or reinforce planning mechanisms to monitor trends and needs of the labour market, in close, continuous, and interactive partnership with higher education institutions and the productive and service sectors. "Observatories" may be created to monitor short- and long-term trends of the world of work and the harmonization needed between these trends and higher education policies and programmes.

4. Higher education institutions must help shape the labour market by identifying the needs of the social and economic sectors for new professionals and specialists. New disciplines and specializations should be introduced into the curriculum of higher education institutions. At the same time, job opportunities should be created for the graduates of these disciplines by a joint effort of governments, enterprises, and the higher education community. Higher education institutions should also provide school dropouts and those already in the workforce flexible opportunities to upgrade their competencies and knowledge levels, as well as to profit fr om retraining and career-switching.

5. Special attention should be given to the development of study programmes at the professional level, particularly by introducing or expanding higher colleges of technology, and at the graduate level, by expanding master's and Ph.D. programmes, with due regard to designing specializes learning material of specific disciplines of high quality relevant to societal needs and delivered through new information and communication technologies.

6. Curricula should be organized to stimulate the entrepreneurial skills of students, grounded on flexible, innovative, and interdisciplinary approaches, as to break the general trend towards the dependence of most graduates on public employment. Incubator projects which help create new enterprises should be fostered with the support of governments, the productive and service sectors, and local communities. In addition, more industry-based projects and new paradigms of university-industry partnership must be instituted. UNESCO, UNIDO, UNDP, the World Bank, AGFUND, Islamic Development Bank, and other development funding agencies could be sought after to assist in this matter.

iii. Responsibility towards other education levels

7. Higher education must take up its duties towards other levels of education. This is needed not only to ensure that students are better prepared for higher education, but also to ensure that pupils experience less failures, stay longer in schools, and are given educational and guidance services appropriate to their abilities and interests. To this effect, auxiliary educational services should be created at all levels of education and services should be provided to all students who require them. Moreover, in view of the ever increasing rates of illiteracy in some Arab States, of the negative effects of illiteracy on economic and social development, and of the enormous human potential of the hundred thousands of students enrolled in higher education, higher education community should take a leading role in combating illiteracy, particularly among girls and women.

8. To act on its responsibility and role towards the whole education system, higher education in the Arab States should actively participate (a) in the improvement of the quality of general education, (b) in the renovation of teacher and other educational personnel training schemes aiming at more professionalization, (c) in conducting research on social and educational variables that may reduce school failure and dropout, and in recommending appropriate educational approaches and policy alternatives, etc., (d) in the development, in close, continuous, and interactive partnership with education authorities and institutions, of activity programmes and direct services to the education community aiming at helping the education system reach the objectives of education for all as set in Jomtien Conference (1990). Networks and Chairs in educational sciences should be created and reinforced as part of the strategy to achieve these ends.

iv. Major social problems

9. Higher education institutions should contribute to the development of students' personal awareness, commitment, and capacity to cope, at the personal as well as at the professional levels, with the major social issues facing humankind, such as population, poverty, illiteracy, public health, protection of the environment, protection of cultural diversity, social participation, human rights and international understanding, etc. All higher education study programmes should include courses dealing with these issues with appropriate concrete applications according to students' fields of specializations.

10. Arab higher education should take active part in facilitating access to and harnessing of modern technology and scientific discoveries by all members of the educational community and by the public at large. It has a special responsibility, alongside with the media, towards the passage of Arab societies to information and communication age. In particular, all higher education teaching, technical, and administrative personnel, and all students of all disciplines must be provided with the necessary training that enables them to integrate new information and communication technologies into their work.

v. Regional integration

11. Higher education institutions must promote processes aiming at Arab integration, starting at the cultural and educational levels, with the view to attain economic and political integration. The adoption of common standards for quality assessment and recognition of educational and professional qualifications constitutes a step forward towards such an integration, as well as the adoption of common core study programmes in the various professional fields. The implementation of common research projects may constitute another way towards this end. Intensive efforts should be devoted to studying the economic, social, cultural, ecological and political obstacles to integration and the strategies and actions needed to overcome these obstacles.

2- QUALITY

12.  Each Arab State should establish a mechanism for evaluating the quality of its higher education at the systemic, institutional, programme, personnel, and outcomes levels. Quality assurance methods may include academic accreditation, institutional evaluations or sector reviews by disciplines and professional areas, performance funding, competency-based approaches to professional education and training.

13. Appropriate emphasis needs to be placed on the renewal of curricula, on continuous assessment of teaching and learning approaches and the adoption of new ones, as well as the promotion of multidisciplinary studies. The utilization of multi-media and the Internet must all be used, with due consideration to promote interaction between students, teachers, and managers.

14. Governments and institutions of higher education must adopt appropriate strategies for the recruitment and trainig of teaching personnel, for their further professional development and for recognition of their achievements. Legislative bodies, governments, and higher education institutions should take the necessary measures to implement the Recommendation concerning the Status and Conditions of Higher Education Teaching Personnel, approved by the 29th Session of UNESCO General Conference (Paris, 1997).

15. Each higher education institution should establish a center for the professional development and the improvement of the teaching performance of its teaching personnel.

16. Higher education institutions should modernize libraries and take the necessary measures to provide for scientific equipment and guarantee its modernization within the framework of their long-term plans. In this context, regional and international co-operation should particularly be enhanced as to ensure to students and academics from Arab States adequate access to scientific equipment and information that could not be made available due to limited budgets and resources.

17. Higher education institutions must provide each student with orientation and study skills training, and pave the way for him to play an efficient role in society.

18. Appropriate strategies should be developed in order to strengthen research capacity at higher education institutions, including research aiming at the acquisition, the broadening, and the deepening of knowledge and publishing its results. Conducting such research should be an obligation to all members of the teaching personnel at higher education institutions. States and institutions should provide for proper structures, equipment, and staff, as well as the necessary financial support as to ensure the involvement of teaching personnel in research and publication activities. Co-operative programmes at the national, regional, and international levels should be encouraged, including linking of higher education institutions, centres, and laboratories to government and industry research laboratories.

3- MANAGEMENT AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES

i. Governance and management systems

19. Autonomy of higher education institutions of the Arab States should be fostered. This includes, among other things, the freedom to select staff and students, to determine the conditions under which they remain in the institution, to determine the curriculum and degree standards, to allocate resources for different activities, and to select research topics. Institutional autonomy should be accompanied by a high level of responsibility and accountability and the widest possible participation of students, faculty, and administration in decision-making.

20. Governments should consider creating or reinforcing agencies that act as buffer between concerned ministries and higher education institutions and provide advice on such matters as organization, accountability and quality assurance, allocation of resources, and the administration of grants and financial assistance, with due consideration to the fact that higher education implies that its appraisal cannot be restricted to economic quantitative indicators alone.

21. Opportunities should be given, wherever possible, to government, and the professional and productive sectors to participate in decision-making concerning management and organization of higher education.

22. Management capacities in higher education should be strengthened by appropriate training and staff development programmes for all managers, especially those in executive positions, the adoption of clear job descriptions and decision-making channels, the improvement of managerial procedures, and the introduction of computerized management systems.

23. Each higher education institution should establish a unit staffed with experienced qualified personnel with the mandate to conduct the necessary studies and research and to propose strategies and actions aiming at the institutional development and the improvement of management. Its studies can include, inter alia, such matters as planning and management, evaluation of training and service programmes and the introduction of new ones, the development of distance education schemes, the condition of women and the strategies to enhance their participation at the different levels of the institution. To this end, UNESCO Chairs and Networks could be developed and implemented in the Arab States.

ii. Financial resources

24. Arab States must renew the commitments made by them at the social Development Summit in Copenhagen and at other world bodies to "make new and additional resources available" and thus increase their budgets allocated to education in general and to higher education in particular, measured as a percentage of their gross national product.

25. Even though the state should remain the main party responsible for funding higher education, diversification of funding sources, in particular, through cost recovery of extra-academic activities, and encouragement of various income-generating activities, such as contract research, cultural and academic services, short-term courses, etc... should actively be sought after. This could only be achieved by the involvement of all stakeholders, the public and private sectors, local communities, academic associations, and non-governmental organizations. Legislative bodies should play a leading role in the matter by the adoption of appropriate measures to encourage diversification of funding sources with due consideration to ensuring access to higher education according to merit, and equity.

26. In order to assure high-quality research, it is required to adopt adequate systems for public and private support to research undertaken at higher education institutions, as well as to double the existing level of funding.

27. The complementary role of private institutions of higher education must be recognized. Governments should provide a legal framework to regulate private higher education institutions and develop appropriate mechanisms for accreditation, diploma recognition, and licensing, in addition to setting standards for quality assurance and adequacy of the required educational facilities and services.

4-  CO-OPERATION

28. Each institution of higher education must envisage the creation of a specialized unit for managing Arab and international co-operation. These units must develop international linkages, such as those for the exchange of students and teaching personnel, and other academic co-operation activities. As well, they must co-operate within the framework of the activities of international organizations and bilateral agreements.

29. International and Regional organizations must support projects aiming at reinforcing co-operation between higher education institutions through the establishment and strengthening of higher education networks, and support to the activities of existing associations, especially the Association of Arab Universities, the Arab Federation of Councils for Scientific Research and the Arab Federation for Technical Education

30. Higher education institutions should strengthen their endogenous and co-operative capacities related to priority issues in the Arab States. Centers of excellence can have a positive impact on the solution of major social problems related to the environment, demographic growth, sustainable development, research on higher education, educational research, institutional management, teaching staff professional development, arabization of higher education, provision of communication technologies, technology transfer, the protection of cultural heritage, etc...

31. The exchange of knowledge and experience between higher education institutions in the Arab States must be carried out in a spirit of solidarity and be the basis for co-operation agreements between them. Within their capacity, UNESCO and other international and regional governmental and non-governmental organizations should respond to the request to provide technical assistance to smaller and poor countries.

32. A special effort must be undertaken to re-build the higher education system in Palestine and in occupied territories, to remove the barriers which the military occupation places that prevent the free movement of students and faculty members, and that hinder access to research and study. Concerned parties should endeavour to stop all measures that threaten the safety and security of students and staff of institutions of higher education. At the same time, appropriate pressures must be exerted to remove obstacles to the free exchange of students and academics between Palestine and the Arab States. Finally, Arab institutions of Higher education are urged to continue their policies supporting access of qualified Palestinian students to higher education.

33. The establishment of the Arab Open University must be encouraged in the light of the results of the studies pertaining to it.

34. Regional co-operation projects in the field of teaching staff personnel and their professional development should be reinforced. Arab States are urged to encourage the establishment of the Arab University for Graduate Studies and Scientific Research.

35. A series of actions should be undertaken by governments and higher education systems in the Arab States following the recommendations of the Regional Committee responsible for the application of the Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees of Higher Education in the Arab States; in particular:

- exchange of information and documentation with regional committees of other regions;

- development of inter-regional co-operation among national documentation centers for the recognition of studies and diplomas;

- development of capacities in view of collection, treatment and dissemination of information in order to facilitate the recognition of studies and diplomas in higher education;

- development of research aiming at facilitating the recognition of studies and diplomas, on subjects or themes such as academic and professional mobility, recognition of skills and experiences, etc...

36. Within the framework of the Convention on the Recognition of Studies, Diplomas and Degrees of Higher Education, governments, institutions of higher education, professional bodies and international organizations must encourage student, academic and professional mobility to benefit the process of economic, educational, political and cultural integration in the Arab States and to develop mutually accepted standards for the recognition of diplomas. In this action, attention should be paid to incorporate the Arabic dimension as an integral part of teaching and research. Furthermore, all efforts should be made to remove practical, administrative and legal obstacles to academic exchange at institutional, national and international levels.

5- FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS

37. Governments, higher education institutions, and all stakeholders concerned with the development of higher education in the Arab States must translate the recommendations of this plan of action into operational projects as soon as possible.

38. For improving the systems of co-operation in the Arab States, an evaluation of existing networks, including those established within the framework of UNITWIN/UNESCO Chairs programme, should be carried out.

39. UNESCO, with the support of governments and other organizations, must convene a meeting of experts in 2002 or 2003 to evaluate and follow-up the implementation of the recommendations of Beirut Conference.