This article examines the historic role of higher education in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region nations, while also offering a typology of recent higher education reform strategies. I argue that MENA Region nations can be classified into two traditional models of higher education: public sponsored mobility, common in nearly all Arab States, and private-based systems, found only in Lebanon and Palestine.

Within the subset of public sponsored mobility systems, I argue that these MENA Region nations are all reforming their higher education systems in the name of global economic competitiveness, yet are pursuing distinct models of reforms, namely neoliberal, quality assurance, and internationalization.

Finally, I argue that these varied reform patterns imply different roles for the state in structuring youth opportunities amidst an era of globalization and suggest the need to further investigate youth perceptions of these reforms.