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Communications of the ACM

Arab World special section: Big trends

Unleashing Early Maturity Academic Innovations

Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, illustration

Credit: OCP Group

The Arab region consists of many teaching-intensive universities that are intrinsically committed to holistic educational excellence. According to a recent UNESCO report,5 the higher education sector in the Arab region is undergoing a need for massive expansion given exponentially growing populations, record-breaking youth cohorts, coupled with a strong recognition of the economic and social value of higher education. Such an enormous need for growth poses a significant challenge for publicly funded universities yet offers many opportunities for private universities to meet the ever-increasing demands of advanced education.2 As is the case with many similar universities worldwide, not being dedicated research institutions often results in limited availability of research funds, resources, and hence innovation throughput. The examples given in this paper are those of universities in the region that were initially focused on consolidating their teaching, except for one which started first as research-intensive. However, it was not long before a shift in policy included research excellence in undergraduate education by harnessing the most valuable resource of any university: the aspiring students themselves.

While the different universities followed seemingly different approaches to tap into undergraduate student potential, most successful models follow the same broad guidelines. The heart of stimulating high-quality undergraduate research innovation in computing lies in enabling full potential through early maturity, stimulation of discovery, exposure to international collaborations and projects while providing students with the needed freedom to grow and innovate. We take a shot at explaining how this is happening through four prominent universities from diverse areas across the Arab region.


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