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BAU programme seeks to change attitude towards future of higher education in Jordan

By Maram Kayed - Sep 19,2020 - Last updated at Sep 19,2020

Courtesy of BAU

AMMAN — In response to the rapid changes in Jordan and the world, Al Balqa Applied University (BAU) is preparing to launch the Bridging, Permeability and Professional Certification (BPPC) programme as of next year, a programme that allows a wide cohort of youth from vocational training backgrounds and community colleges to continue their undergraduate and postgraduate education. 

Modern day challenges, as stated by BAU, include increased enrollments in higher education, evolving needs of local, regional and international markets and an increased number of unemployed youth and job seekers in Jordan.

BAU’s President Abdullah Zu’bi said in remarks to The Jordan Times that on one hand, statistics indicate that Jordan has high unemployment rates, which negatively impact its future development, but on the other hand, the Kingdom has an increasing demand for skilled workers and technicians in the market.

Jordan is home to over 800,000 foreign labourers, according to BAU, “most of whom are technicians with skills and competencies that are not available in Jordanian labour force”.

The BPPC innovative project, which is in line with the National Qualifications Framework, aims to address many of these challenges.

“If implemented well, BPPC can transform the form of Jordan’s higher education, which is currently under a lot of pressure.  It will address the needs of the international labour market that look for skills and competencies more than certificates and degrees,” said Zu’bi.

The programme’s model was developed after reviewing international models and then amended in a way that considers local circumstances, noted BAU. 

With the hopes that over half a million Jordanian youths can benefit from this programme within the coming decade, BAU believes that BPPC can help achieve a number of goals.

“Jordan has long struggled with high employment numbers, and this programme would facilitate education for those who were not able to join academic tracks in the past, so first and foremost, it will give our youth hope in a better future, and help them realise their full potential,” said the BAU president.

By providing “top-notch” training, raising the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) profile in Jordan and destigmatising this branch of education, BAU hopes that TVET graduates “will no longer feel inferior to their academic peers, which is something that has long plagued TVET education”.

“The programme also allows our graduates long-life learning, so they would be able to pursue their postgraduate education on par with their academic peers. In addition, they would graduate as skilled technicians who are competent in their future jobs,” said Zu’bi.

The culmination of these steps would fulfill one of the National Human Resource Development Strategy goals of increasing enrollment in TVET programmes to 50 per cent by 2025, stated BAU.

“It will also situate academic and technical professional degrees within their appropriate place in the National Qualifications Framework,” it stated.

As it includes both undergraduate and postgraduate studies, the option of enrolment in the BPPC programme depends on a number of factors, including student grades and interests.

At the undergraduate level, there are a number of enrollment scenarios. Students who have met higher education admission requirements can enroll in either the professional or academic track.

Those who don’t meet academic track admission requirements, regardless of their high school stream, can either join the labour force, or enroll in university college programmes. Upon graduation, they can join the labour force, bridge into the academic track as per the current regulations, or join the professional track.

As for those who have joined the workforce, those can, after four or five years of work, sit for a qualification exam. If they pass, they can join technical universities.  If they do not pass, they can join technical universities for a preparatory year and then continue in their professional track.

The scheme also allows BA students in the academic track to transfer to the professional track and continue their higher education in it.

“As such, the framework provides a lot of flexibility. The framework also allows professional track students to pursue their higher education all the way through to professional master’s degree. Needless to say, this will be regulated by the universities and the Accreditation and Quality Assurance Commission for Higher Education Institutions,” noted Zu’bi.

Although BAU has already garnered approval from the Higher Education Council, this is just the first step of many, according to the university.

Currently, BAU is also working on drafting regulations, determining market needs, developing curricula, training academic staff, improving infrastructure and promoting the programme locally in partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders.

“We realise that we can gain a lot by learning from international experiences that have proven successful, so we are working closely with a number of international partners to design our custom TVET programmes,” said BAU’s president.

BAU believes this programme can bring substantial positive changes in the higher education system in Jordan, therefore changing how people view TVET education and increasing enrollment in its programmes.

“It will also enhance our graduates’ competitive edge locally, regionally and internationally,” said Zu’bi, who stressed that the nature of the programme is “flexible enough to accommodate different student populations, professional experiences and choices of movement through bridging and permeability”.

BAU’s president also noted that with its focus on skills, competences and hands-on training as well as its adoption of innovative programmes, BPPC’s graduates “will not need to wait for public sector jobs, and can start their own business”.

“The whole framework is designed to open up education and help Jordanian youth realise their full potential and to participate in the economic growth in Jordan. Although the framework is designed for Jordan, we have learnt from the experiences of world leaders in the field including the French, the German, the British, the Canadian, the Korean and the other models,” Zu’bi concluded.

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