His Excellency Adel Tweissi is Jordan’s current Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, as well as the former president of the University of the Jordan, the country’s largest university. He tells us about the national impetus to develop scientific research and spread an educational culture of tolerance.
How is your ministry supporting the development of scientific research?
The first challenge is that most of the research that is produced here by researchers is supply-oriented research, not demand-oriented research. In other words, it serves their faculty member groups’ needs for academic promotion. That is why none of the research has been applied; its only theoretical. We would like to improve this by encouraging and finding programs that support applied research and development. One way is to bridge the gap that exists now between universities and industries. The other way is to increase the percentage of money that we put in scientific research from the GDP. For the time being, it is only 0.5%, but we are planning to increase R&D spending to 1.75% of GDP by 2025.
What characteristics have aided Jordan’s top universities to become ranked so highly for scientific research in the region?
For the University of Jordan, it has 42,000 students, 17% of which are post-graduate students. These students also produce research. So when you take all of these figures into consideration, I believe they contribute in one way or another to the high ranking of the university. The Jordan University of Science and Technology, for example, is a scientific university, and the faculties there are either medicine or science. One more reason for both universities is that they admit the students with the highest grades in the Kingdom. This is very important because when a professor has such good students, he will be able to produce good scientific research.
How does Jordan’s reputation in scientific research compare to the rest of the Arab world?
There are a number of departments here in Jordan besides the universities who work on networking. We have a program from the European Union called Erasmus+, which is doing very well in networking Jordanian researchers with researchers in the European Union. The universities themselves encourage researchers and faculty members to produce group research, especially if the group has researchers from outside the country.
How is inclusivity reflected in the ranks of the academic environment here?
We don’t have many natural resources, but we do have human resources and an education sector that has excelled. For example, Princess Sumaya University has a high employability rate for its graduates of about 95%. Most of the graduates of this university are employed even before they graduate, and many companies in the private sector come and make contacts with these students before graduation. This is the only private university that admits its student before the government and the other private universities with a very high degree.
How can the region benefit from greater education exchange?
In our academic institutions, we don’t only teach knowledge. We also teach culture, and the culture that we focus on is the culture of modesty, tolerance and encountering extremism. The Arab world is suffering from terrorism, and local wars are the product of this extremism. That is why I think that through having such a high percentage of Arab students in our universities, Jordan spreads its culture of tolerance and anti-extremism through education.