Director General, Dr Ahmad Jammal,
Director Dr André Bekhazi
President of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists Dr Fadi Gemayel
I am very happy to be here today to witness the launch of this project that the European Union is funding to support programme evaluation and recognition of skills and qualifications in the higher education sector in Lebanon. This project, by the beautiful name of TLQAA++, brings together a large number of Lebanese and European partners (universities, representatives of private and public sectors, quality assurance agencies) who are joining efforts to help improve the quality of higher education in this country.
The European Union believes in the power of education and in its role in creating positive social and economic change. This is why we have worked for years to support the modernisation of the Lebanese higher education sector. We believe in the role of universities as catalysts for creating knowledge-based jobs and innovative businesses that attract investors and boost the economic cycle. We see universities as key to the development of a common knowledge and innovation space between the EU and its partners in this region.
In a globalized world, the developing nature of the job market and the technological and socio-economic developments emphasise the need for higher education institutions to change accordingly.
Higher education institutions have to respond to the requests from employers who look for graduates with the specific set of skills, attitudes and tools that the labour market demands. But they also need to prepare the new generations to address social problems and to inspire them with the ethics and values that are essential to our democratic societies. Moreover, they need to meet the increasing demand for lifelong learning by providing the necessary skills and knowledge.
In addition to all that, families and students are increasingly demanding better value for money when it comes to education at university level. It is perfectly understandable: university education is one of life's most important financial investments. However, increasing universities fees do not always correspond to employability prospects and to programmes meeting international standards. And we should work to better adjust this.
Higher education institutions in many parts of the world are adapting very quickly. While we all have great respect for the strong academic tradition of Lebanon, it is not a secret that some new institutions in this region have succeeded in improving their standards and have made substantial institutional, human and capital investments. Competition is rising!
To succeed in an increasingly competitive global employment market means qualifications and programmes have to meet global standards. Universities have to respond to the need of the Lebanese youth, young professionals and technicians who wish to work in Lebanon or anywhere else in the world.
In other words, if Lebanese higher education institutions want to be able to face their challenges, quality assurance has to be at the heart of the system. It is a question of survival.
A law proposal for the creation of the quality assurance agency in Lebanon, elaborated jointly by public institutions and the universities, is now at parliament level. This legislation, if approved, could help tackle some of the issues faced by the higher education sector in Lebanon. We hope that this happens.
For the sake of its success, it will be important for a new agency to be able to operate independently. Its leadership, composition and performance will be fundamental for the entity's legitimacy, credibility and viability, as well as for that of the whole Lebanese higher education system.
In the meantime, and whilst we wait for the legislators' decision, hopefully soon, the TLQAA+ project will work on setting the standards, guidelines and procedures for the higher education institutions' evaluation of their programmes.
Finally, I would like to thank the project team, in particular its team-leader Mr Chafic Moqbel, for the organisation of this event and I would like to wish you and all the partners all the success in achieving the objectives of this project.