Nine out of 10 academics in Arab world ‘want to emigrate’

Survey respondents cite concern over lack of funding, difficulty of international travel and bureaucracy

December 6, 2019
Source: istock
Even in oil-rich Abu Dhabi many researchers are attracted to the idea of working abroad

Nine out of 10 researchers in the Arab world who responded to a survey said they would like to emigrate.

Lack of funding, difficulty in travelling to other countries to attend conferences and collaborate with colleagues, and cumbersome bureaucracy were among the obstacles to conducting good research cited by the 650 respondents to a survey conducted by Al-Fanar Media, which covers education in the Arab world.

Ninety-one per cent of the respondents, drawn from the 22 Arab League member countries, said they would like to move abroad for a permanent research position.

Almost half the researchers (47 per cent) said their institution lacked a reliable internet connection, while the majority (52 per cent) said their university did not provide free access to current academic journals. A huge 84 per cent of them had to put their own money into their research, while 71 per cent said it was difficult to visit international conferences.

Across the region as a whole, 80 per cent of respondents “want[ed] to move” for “more opportunity to advance in my discipline and conduct sophisticated research”. Other key factors were a desire for “better research facilities” (57 per cent), “more academic freedom” (43 per cent), “better salary” (42 per cent) and “escaping corruption and bureaucracy”. This last issue was flagged up by 37 per cent of all researchers who took part, although the proportion was even higher in countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.

For Rana Dajani, a molecular biologist and associate professor at Hashemite University in Jordan and a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard University, the fundamental problem was an “environment that doesn’t support doing science. In order to do good science and to have the patience, and passion, and persistence, you need to be inspired by other scientists. It’s about attending conferences, exchanging ideas and listening to what’s new. This largely doesn’t exist [in the Arab world].”

Twenty-four per cent of respondents were master’s or PhD students; 32 per cent were early career researchers; and 17 per cent were senior academics.

Asked where they would consider moving to, the UK and Europe were the most popular choice, selected by 68 per cent of respondents. Fifty-five per cent of respondents said Canada or the US, while 31 per cent named Australia or New Zealand, and 28 per cent said Asia.

Staying in the region was also an option for some: 34 per cent said they would consider moving to a Gulf Cooperation Council country, while 27 per cent said they would consider moving to another Arab state outside the GCC.

matthew.reisz@timeshighereducation.com

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Print headline: Researchers in Arab world ‘want to emigrate’

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