Higher education has a critical role to play in the national and regional restructuring of Arab economic and political institutions that is currently underway. The long term success or failure of today’s reform initiatives will rest, to a large degree, on the ability of these societies to place higher education where it belongs — as the engine of social and economic progress. The new pressures for political change may provide a unique opportunity to break free from some of the obstacles that have held back meaningful educational changes in the past.

This working group, convened at the 2011 U.S. Islamic World Forum in Washington, DC, brought together educators, specialists, and public sector officials from the United States and the Middle East to review the current state of higher education in the Arab world and consider the key challenges facing this critical sector of society. How are different actors in the diverse landscape of Arab higher education advancing or impeding the goals of improving educational outcomes? To what degree do regional partnerships and cooperative efforts offer opportunities to overcome local obstacles in specific areas? Finally, where has important progress been made and what policy responses and initiatives should be encouraged to improve the ability of Arab educational institutions to meet the challenges of this transformational period?