An Absolute Novelty in the Middle East
In 1976, Professor Labib Khadra received a stipendium from the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD, to study at Aachen University; in 1991, he was a visiting professor at Heilbronn University.
Now, the Jordanian can draw upon his experience at these German institutes of higher education: for the last three months, he has been president equivalent to chancellor of the German-Jordanian-University, GJU. The university is a state-run institution with a strong practical orientation. It is supported by DAAD as part of its programme, "Courses Offered By Germany Universities Abroad".
Did you have to spend a lot of time explaining the concept of a "Fachhochschule" (University of Applied Sciences)?
Labib Khadra: We have already done so, and people have been responding with great interest. We shall continue to hold talks at schools, explaining what a German "Fachhochschule" is, what it means to study at such an institution, and why we need it in Jordan.
At first, the applicants were sceptical. Most universities in the Middle East function more or less like schools; but we include industrial companies as part of our curriculum, and we want to undertake research together. This is as new to the students as the idea of work practice in companies, but the resonance is good. We are starting off with more than 100 first-year students – a majority of whom are female, by the way. In future, we also want to attract students from neighbouring countries; but first we have to make ourselves better-known there.
How do you find lecturers who are familiar with the everyday workings of industry, and who can teach in a practice-oriented fashion?
Khadra: You are addressing a major difficulty. We need lecturers who have experience working in the commercial sector, because our research laboratories are practice-oriented. If our concept is to function as we wish, we also have to work with local firms. That's why it's not so important where the lecturers have studied or what countries they come from; the first priority is industry experience.
Right now, we are discussing the possibility of a part-time professorship. By this, I mean a university graduate who can demonstrate many years of professional experience in industry, and who will now augment his work in a commercial firm with the teaching of a few modules at the University of Applied Sciences.
Such a person need not necessarily have acquired a doctorate – but the law requires that he or she have done so. I am very much in favour of changing the law accordingly, because we simply cannot do without people who have practical experience.
How do things stand as regards cooperation with Germany?
Khadra: Our partner is the University of Magdeburg-Stendal. It coordinates a consortium, comprising around 70 Universities of Applied Science, which took part in the development of our curricula. These universities will take on our students when they enter their fourth year of study - their year in Germany, where they will complete their studies and undertake work placement programmes.
I am pleased that so many German "Fachhochschulen" are supporting us in this way. It's in their own interests too, because they acquire students for their Masters programmes, they gain international contacts, and they build bridges to an Arab country.
Interview conducted by Katja Spross
© DAAD magazine 2005/Qantara.de
Translation from German: Patrick Lanagan