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Fact sheet

Available in: Français

“Breaking even or breaking through: reaching financial sustainability while providing high quality standards in Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa”

  • Higher education (HE) systems in MENA face three combined challenges: expanding capacity, while maintaining quality and relevance, and ensuring equity of access.

  • HE enrollment in MENA has grown steadily over the last decade, increasing by 20 to 30 percent across the region from 2000 to 2008.

  • Proportion of MENA population aged at least twenty-five with a tertiary degree still below ten percent, and in some cases below five percent, as compared with 25 percent in countries such as Ireland.

  • Participation of women in HE has increased throughout MENA, especially in GCC countries where they now represent 62 percent of total enrollment.

  • With the expansion of secondary education and current population trends, gross enrollment rates in MENA HE expected to grow from 25.8 percent in 2010 to 40 percent by 2030. 

  • Expenditures on HE as a percentage of GDP are high in MENA, ranging from 1.6 percent in Tunisia to 2.6 percent in Algeria, but will have to rise to 3.3 percent to keep pace with rising enrollment.

  • Expenditures on research and development as a percentage of GDP are low, at 0.39 percent in MENA countries as compared with the OECD average of 1.84 percent.

  • Youth unemployment rates in MENA, at 21 percent in the Middle East and 25 percent in North Africa, are higher than any other region in the world.

  • University graduates make up nearly 30 percent of unemployed in MENA.

  • Worldwide trends show public funding for HE decreasing, while the proportion of private spending increasing between 1995 and 2004.

  • Two-thirds of the universities created since 1993 in the Arab World are private entities, and in 2008 private HE institutions (HEIs) represented 36 percent of all HEIs in the Arab world.  

  • Private HEIs currently educate about 20 to 25 percent of all MENA students, compared to over 50 percent in Latin America or East Asia.

  • In 2010, philanthropy in the U.S. provided USD $28 billion to private colleges and universities. 

  • World Bank estimates about USD $400 billion in savings held by global diasporas, with the savings of the MENA diasporas estimated at more than USD $42 billion.  

Total spending on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP

Total spending on tertiary education as a percentage of GDP


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