FUIW General Conference adopts Rabat Declaration on Strategic Development of University Education in the Muslim World

At the close of its proceedings today at ISESCO headquarters, the 7th General Conference of the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW) adopted the Rabat Declaration on Strategic Development of University Education in the Muslim World.

In the Declaration, the rectors and representatives of the Member Universities having taken part in the Conference called for encouraging a well-thought comprehensive strategic transformation of the Muslim world’s universities and higher education institutions into entities with a world-class quality standard, high competitiveness, good governance and a direct impact on Muslim societies development, by endeavoring to establish integrated systems and mechanisms for the management of the necessary changes and reforms towards boosting quality, performance and impact, and harnessing the human, tangible, information and cultural capital.

They invited universities to turn themselves from mere conveyors of information and inculcators of knowledge into hubs for scientific research, industrial innovation and scholarly creativity and a major source of efficient solutions to societal issues and to development challenges.

They also stressed the need for universities to serve as a breeding ground of leadership and highly qualified and multi-skilled senior staff capable of delivering the qualitative and strategic transformation of Muslim societies, while paying more attention to communication, creativity and innovation skills, capacity self-investment and research promotion.

In the same vein, they called for enhancing the training of faculty and preparing them for the new roles pertaining to creativity, innovation, use of technology, management of innovative research, and the training of multi-skilled graduates capable of efficiently managing the educational process through modern technological media and promoting integrated and interdisciplinary action. To this end, they emphasized the importance of strengthening the effective institutional autonomy of universities, granting them wider powers in the management of their affairs and promotion of quality, and implementing innovative and creative qualitative programmes for continuous development and improvement.

The participants also called for involving all stakeholders of the university system such as students, families and government agencies in upgrading universities, boosting their performance and supporting them with ideas and expertise, in line with international standards.

By the same token, they called for furthering communication between universities and graduates, while endeavoring to create an added value of brilliant graduates, establishing partnerships with them to provide moral and material support for the university, activating the mechanisms of soft diplomacy and graduate ambassadors, developing positive networking with alumni, and benefiting from their expertise and connections in developing universities.

They also voiced their encouragement for integration and cooperation between academic and scientific institutions, and industry and production entities in designing and implementing strategic programmes favoring the transfer of technical expertise, scientific excellence and integrated training of students and faculty.

In addition, they recommended strengthening capacities of universities to manage and finance a larger number of their priority projects and activities through waqf investments, innovation commercialization, counsel provision, development of community, scientific and cultural programmes, and marketing of the studies and research offering practical solutions to societal problems and issues.

They equally called for strengthening universities’ capacities in strategic planning, effective management and measurement of performance, rational and efficient use of performance indicators and mechanisms to enhance the overall quality of universities, upgrading universities to international quality standards, promoting local and international ranking of universities and active participation in international rankings, and working towards developing measurement mechanisms and performance indicators in line with the Muslim world’s values, culture, civilization, specificities and aspirations to sustainable comprehensive development.

Enhancing communication, harmony and integration between the various stages of education in Muslim countries was also recommend as a means to ensure integration of methodology and practice in human development and training of leaderships, starting from pre-school, to the stages of public, university and post-graduate education, lifelong education, and technical and vocational education, within a multidisciplinary and integrated educational system and through efficient curricula that are mindful of Islamic values and heritage, responsive to the latest modern education systems, tuned to technology, social media and methods of teaching, learning, performance and assessment, and sensitive to creativity and innovation.

The conferees also recommended promoting lifelong learning programmes and making them major priorities for the university, given their vital role in preparing society for sustainable development and community involvement, and called for promoting inter-university strategic partnerships and leading initiatives in priority and qualitative areas and projects, fostering exposure to global experiences in the development of higher education, and benefiting from successful experiences and models in the world.

They particularly underscored the need to pay more attention to localizing research, creativity and innovation skills and capabilities in universities, providing the necessary training for faculty, researchers and post-graduate students as well as undergraduate students in advanced years of study, promoting a more rooted culture of research and exploration through the establishment of units, laboratories, centers and institutes specialized in national priority research areas and emerging research areas, and facilitating research and innovation as a vital driving force of sustainable development.

Meanwhile, institutions, banks and sponsors of research and innovation in the public and private sectors were urged to establish specialized funding programmes to support scientific research and industrial innovation in universities.

Emphasis was also placed on providing more study opportunities and scholarships to talented and excellent youth and girls, particularly in Islamic countries stricken by wars and conflicts, and encouraging universities to allocate annual scholarships to this end.

Moreover, the participants urged universities to promote their vital role in promoting a culture of middle stance, dialogue, cooperation and mutual understanding, and make it an essential element in university life and student and staff training; and called for expanding the role of universities in countering negative phenomena that hamper sustainable development projects in the Islamic world such as terrorism, extremism, fanaticism, zealotry and aberrance, through in-depth studies and specialized research works, academic chairs and training.

They commended the efforts exerted by the Federation’s Islamic Body for Quality and Accreditation (IBQA), in cooperation with the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), in designing the integrated mechanism for measuring the performance of universities and promoting their overall quality, and urged Member Universities to adopt this mechanism and support its implementation to improve the quality of education and learning, research and publications, the qualifications of faculty and students, institutional assessment and performance, financial management, the value, ethics and culture system, and the impact of university on sustainable comprehensive development.

They welcomed the project on “Arabic Journals of International Standing as Equivalent to SCOPUS” submitted by the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), and encouraged universities to support it and join it in order to improve the quality of peer-reviewed journals in the Islamic world and improve their reputation.

They also expressed their support for the TAFAHUM Programme on Exchange of Students, Faculty and Researchers among Islamic World Universities; invited Member Universities to participate in this programme, support it by facilitating student and faculty exchange and providing semestrial and annual study opportunities for interested students and professors and providing technical assistance to expand the programme, both in terms of the number of states and universities and academic programmes covered; and called for supporting African and Asian universities to participate in this programme and benefit from it in training future leaderships and opening prospects of partnership and civilizational, cultural and social interaction to serve the Islamic world and its sustainable comprehensive development.

They invited the universities and specialized centers and institutions concerned to provide financial and technical support to the Islamic World Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation project, given its important role in providing the necessary expertise, statistics, data and indicators to decision makers and parties in charge of promoting STI in the Muslim world.

They stressed the need for promoting strategic cooperation and partnership with universities and higher education institutions in Occupied Palestine, particularly in Al-Quds Al-Sharif, and invited Member Universities to build effective partnerships and cooperate in scientific, academic, social, cultural and civilizational fields with Palestinian universities, while financially and morally supporting them, and benefiting from their expertise in their fields of excellence.

They congratulated the winners of the FUIW Prize for University Research Papers; and invited universities to dedicate special prizes to the promotion of creativity and innovation, pay tribute to distinguished researchers, scientists and professors, stimulate their dedication to good academic performance and channel their efforts into resolving problems and promoting sustainable development projects in Muslim societies.

They commended the Federation’s efforts to promote the continuous development of higher education in the Islamic world and develop the appropriate frameworks, policies, mechanisms and programmes in order to enhance cooperation and partnership between universities of Member States. Along the same lines, they hailed the sustained efforts of H.E Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Secretary General of the Federation of the Universities of the Islamic World (FUIW), and the achievements made by the Organization and the FUIW General Secretariat under his leadership and guidance, which have immensely contributed to the promotion of scientific research, quality assurance, governance, modern technology applications in education, innovation and creativity, the culture of justice and peace and the values of middle stance, dialogue and cooperation in the Muslim world.

Finally, the participants expressed gratitude to His Majesty King Mohammed VI of Morocco, for his high patronage of the Conference, his special attention to issues of higher education and sustainable comprehensive development in the Islamic world, and his great caring support for ISESCO and the FUIW.