The effects of the global processes of digitisation and automation are expected to have a profound impact on labour markets and societies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, creating further instabilities and insecurities. At this crucial point in time, the demands for skills, capabilities and experiences that help manage this transition are at an all time high.
The Candid Foundation, with support of the German Federal Foreign Office, has reached out to multiple private, public and civil-society stakeholders from the MENA region and Europe in order to assess the demand and design a potential structure for a higher learning institution, the MENA Digital School (DS). This institution must itself adhere to the new digital ways of learning and equip its students with the necessary practical and cognitive skills to master such a complex organisational and also societal transformation.
According to our analysis, grounded by both policy-guided research and interviews with sectoral experts, such an institution should follow a mixed approach of online content delivery and traditional face-to-face learning. It should offer highly personalised learning paths, including local content and local case studies, while building a close-knit community of alumni, diaspora and connections to the corporate world. A special emphasis should be given to a project-based curriculum, as it ensures that graduates are guided in the application of theory to real-life situations.
The curriculum should reflect that digitisation needs to be understood as a holistic process impacting all strata of society including business, governance, civil society and the media. Consequently, it should stretch beyond teaching technical aspects and also include management and leadership skills, as well as modules in legal matters and digital social sciences.
Building on these findings, the MENA Digital School envisioned could take the form of offering both micro certificates for executive education as well as a fully accredited Masters of Business Administration (MBA). In order for this institution to thrive and offer a competitive curriculum, the experts made it clear, that this institution should aggregate existing best learning content in MENA, Germany, and elsewhere but also develop missing practical experience and cases with an Arab context. Furthermore, a strong link to German diplomacy and German corporates is seen as an advantage. Our analysis points to three key implementation possibilities: a fully accredited higher education institution, an institute within an already existing higher education institution, or a digital education start-up.
Building this school should follow a piloting approach that allows for the selection of partners in MENA and Germany according to the demands of students and the implementation could therefore include different institutional stages and shapes along a development path. This pragmatic approach is necessary as our discussions confirmed that the demand for an institution that offers specific MENA content for the digital transformation, and is yet connected with the tech world and international universities, is significant and urgent.