The importance of universities can hardly be overestimated. Their numbers have grown massively, as have the number of the people enrolled in them relative to the total population worldwide. They exert multiple functions in the production and dissemination of knowledge. Moreover, they are ascribed the role to evaluate and certify knowledge in
the form of professional and scholarly status, curricula, as a basis for policies and more.
As universities themselves have a share in the definition and proclamation of social
problems and goals, they can easily turn into contested terrain in the claim for the right
interpretation of social phenomena and the right ways to address them. Unrest on university campuses, dense security regimes and long closures in the aftermath of political change in several Arab countries testify to that, as well as the continued control over teaching and research activities.
The growing body of debate and research literature about higher education in the Arab
world suggests that universities are vital for the attainment of many developmental
goals and plans. In relation to these, however, the literature perceives the Arab university landscape as defective, lacking the means and the concepts to attain those goals. Hence, universities have been subject to reform measures to enhance and assure the quality of their impact, to make them compatible with international standards, certificates etc.
The projects in this cluster address the two strings of critique that are attached to
the social sciences and humanities at universities in Arab countries. On the one hand,
we ask in which ways the roles of universities are coming under increased political
and societal scrutiny, and are redefined according to changing notions of what valuable
knowledge is. On the other hand, we ask how reform measures have changed the perspectives and dynamics of knowledge production in the humanities in times that have also, politically, been very eventful.
- Higher Education and Citizenship in Egypt: An anthropological critique of the crisis narrative (Daniele Cantini)
- History Writing at Lebanon’s Universities: Dynamics of connectivity under the impact of reform, innovation and political turns (Jonathan Kriener)