Today, Prof. Sibrand Poppema, President of the University of Groningen, and Mr Bert Verveld, Secretary General, opened the 2011 Arab European University Association Presidents’ Meeting. The conference started with interesting and challenging lectures in the Academy Building of the University of Groningen. ‘We work together to the benefit of our people and especially the younger generation’, said Prof Sultan Abu Orabi, secretary general of AEUA. ‘I think the doors to opportunities are wide open, but we must cooperate more effectively to walk through these doors.’
Dr Marwan Kamal, President of the AEUA, mentioned the essence of quality assurance in the higher education system and also the importance of the international mobility of students and researchers. ‘The Arab world can benefit from the experience of European universities, for example regarding the connection between academia and the business world.’
The University of Groningen is hosting some 75 Arab and European university presidents. According to Max van den Berg, Queen’s Commissioner in Groningen, the city is the perfect place for this conference. ‘Building bridges has been a guiding principle of the Province of Groningen for years. This meeting fits perfectly in Groningen’s past and present. We should use the next few days to inspire each other.’
‘The recent unrest in the Arab world, the global economic slowdown and the cuts governments are making cast a shadow over our attempts to improve the quality of education’, said Sultan Abu Orabi. ‘But I’m very optimistic about the next few days. We will succeed in strengthening our relationships during this important conference.’ He concluded with the famous words of Henry Ford: ‘Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.’
H.E. Dr Khalid Bin Mohammed Al-Angari, Minister of Higher Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, stressed the role of higher education institutions in socioeconomic development. ‘This role is not only vital and critical, but also complex and dynamic.’ The Minister described the progress of his country in building a system of higher education in order to reduce the dependency on oil export. ‘The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is making huge efforts and our ambitions are high. Internalization is one of the driving forces of our strategic plan. We hope all our efforts will lead to our higher education system evolving into a world-class system.’
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