I am the product of the Jordanian educational system in the late 1970s, 80’s and early 1990s. Not everything I learned came from the schools I attended, of course. There is family, friends, private reading and travel. But I can still can confidently say that I got an adequate education, with moments of great education.

My last 3 years in high school where spent at a public school, the well know Al Hussein College, after being in a variety of good and bad private schools before. Yes, at Al Hussein College, they used to whip us on our hands with a stick if we came too late or didn’t adhere to the governmental school uniform. And yes we had some unbelievably physically aggressive teachers (boxing, kicking, etc). But at least it was an experience of teenagers from all kinds of social background sitting side by side: from the kids of Al Hussein refugee camp to Middle class kids. Maybe we also learned some discipline and good Arabic there!

My architectural studies at the University of Jordan were a mixed bag. But overall I had a great experience there from 1990 to around 1995. We had a great, motivated class (again, mixing all kinds of people) and some really good teachers. In my later university years I became involved in student politics, adding to my exposure an experience.

Up until a few years ago, I always thought that sending my kids to a Jordanian University was a possibility.

Now, I am sorry to say that I have completely changed my mind.

Unless I see a new university rise in Jordan, based on proper academic and social principles, I will do my utmost to offer my kids a college education abroad.

Just today, two columnists from Al-Ghad Newspaper simultaneously rang the alarm bell for the state of Jordan’s universities (Arabic: Hani Al Badri,Dr Akef Al Zu’bi) . Countless articles have been written about this. Even the Minister of Higher Education has voiced extreme concerns.

Yet the People and the State seem to just watch as the ship sinks.

What was once the pride of the Jordanian state, is now a complete disaster.

I had the chance the visit my old Architectural department this summer for a small reunion. Two of my classmates teach there now. The stories I heard were scary. The buildings are in a state of disrepair. It looks like nothing was done since we left in the mid 1990.

On this and other visits to prominent state universities in Jordan you hear and see the same things.

Apparently, it is a common practice for students to simply buy their graduation projects from offices who specialize in this shameful “business”. Fully designed, rendered projects, complete with architectural model are bought by the students and hung up on the wall for the juries. Damn!

During our days, there were some minor stories like that. But nothing of this scale of academic forgery.

The professors seem powerless to change anything. The buildings are decaying around them and they are just sitting there. Their salaries are a joke too.

Classes are swamped with students, many of them don’t not even deserve to be there, academically. Some of the students show zero interest in their work and have graduation projects so bad that a monkey could’ve done better. I’ve seen this with my own eyes and talked to some of these unfortunate students who are shoved into this mass production environment that produces people with empty academic titles.

Then you have all the stories about sectarian fights. Jordanian/Palestinian nonsense. Which tribe are you from. Blah Blah Blah.

Like so many other things in Jordan, such as our national media policy, our social integration policies, our political development, education is deteriorating. The country is getting bigger. People increasingly have access to all the means of modern communication, shopping and entertainment, but the bedrock of our future, education is left in a state of crisis.

At the highest level of the Jordanian State, education is held up as a national priority. But on the ground, our universities are being devalued and destroyed.

What I would like to see is the SAME political will the state puts into fighting TERRORISM and collecting TAXES, being put into TEACHING and education.

All our talk about technology, the knowledge society and future-ready citizens is empty talk if the current state of education is allowed to continue.
Nothing short of announcing a state of educational emergency, appointing a council of respected educators and politicians who oversee the immediate start of rebuilding the universities system will work at this stage.

Entrenched interests that have festered over the past decades will have to be confronted. Costly physical rebuilding might need to be postponed. But re-staffing, re-evaluating general acceptance policies and benchmarking the academic level of students and professors cannot wait.

Selective initiatives and interventions will not work. It’s too late. Rebuilding our universities needs to be handled more like a war: organized, serious, total.



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18 responses to “Jordan’s Universities: watching as we destroy our future”

  1. Lowfields Avatar

    Outstanding post, Ahmad.

    We hear a lot of nice words in Jordan about democracy and development, about knowledge economies and self-reliance. But none of the country’s ambitions will ever be attainable without an educated population, armed with knowledge and skills, with the ability to think critically.

    Sadly, it seems that education is yet another victim of market forces, where the best is only available to those with the means to pay for it – social apartheid coming to a classroom near you.

  2. Tamara Avatar

    Very well said, this is very urgent we will never go any step forward without a better education system.

  3. Oula Farawati Avatar
    Oula Farawati

    great post!

  4. Omar Avatar

    Boy oh boy!

    I can write volumes of books on JU, I have spent the most stupid and destructive years of my life in that institute studying at their so-called Engineering Faculty, I can truly with all objectivity tell you that I, not only didn’t learn anything useful, but have declined both on human and academic levels!

    I have walked in that place full of dreams and aspirations and left it as someone who is mentally adjusted to procrastination, negligence, chaos, and complete non-professionalism!

    It’s 100% the fault of management, not 99% but a full 100%.

  5. Humeid Avatar


    I agree about the danger of letting market forces control education to this degree.

    But the really funny thing is, even if I have millions in the bank, I STILL would not find a convincing university for my kids in Jordan.

    Schools is a different story. There are options. But universities. I don’t think the “expensive, but great quality” choice even exists!

  6. Humeid Avatar

    Thanks Tamara, Oula.

    The thing is, people with money and influence already send their kids abroad, so they will not have an interest in pressuring the State for better university education.

    A mass movement of the middle class is needed for that.

  7. T Avatar

    I always thought it was amusing how the Queen is out promoting education efforts for children of the world, when the education system in her own backyard is in desperate need of an overhaul.

  8. Humeid Avatar

    To be fair, HM Queen Rania is doing a LOT for education in Jordan. The Madrasati initiative being one, besides numerous other programs ranging from teacher training to campaigning against beating in school.

    School reform in Jordan is huge task in itself.

    I am trying to focus on university education in Jordan, something the country prided itself on in the past but is now declining.

    Beside the effort of the Queen, this is primarily about overall state policy and government. It is also whether or not society puts social value on quality education (not just empt titles).

  9. Shaheen Avatar

    I could but agree with you, from schools to universities we are falling and failing big times, and it seems nobody is interested to stop this joke called education in jordan.

    The results will be disastrous, Jordan graduates who travel abroad and fuel the economy with remittances are product of the old rich education systems, I doubt that new engineers are able to prove success and continue to be attractive for regional employers..

  10. Lowfields Avatar


    My point was less about the choices in Jordan to parents – although the rich certainly vote with their children’s feet – but more about the desire for investment in an institution that is geared towards the “general public”.

    How is the university financed? Is this money adequately audited? How much of a shortfall is there? Is anyone applying pressure to raise standards? Where is the private sector in complaining about low-quality graduates? What role has the student body played in addressing these issues…?

    Sadly, it seems the investment – financial, human, emotional – is low because no one is demanding it should be any higher. And because the elites in government wouldn’t dream of sending their kids to an “Arab” university, the problem is invisible.

    Our priorities are like Dubai: why waste money on everyone when you can window dress your society with shiny towers and French fashion brands.

  11. Nadim Avatar

    Sir, the problem is that people who think like you,people who are able to identify the illness and offer solutions, are simply not in Jordan anymore.

    It is people like you who can bring change,but you are mostly cornered in your private job or business,and not allowed to take any official post,because you are not from a certain tribe

    So you either keep quiet or leave. University top positions and even low positions are assigned to unworthy people.

    Please send your kids to somewhere to expose them, yet teach them about Jordan so when they return back,they don’t suffer a culture shock

  12. khader Humied Avatar
    khader Humied

    Dear Ahmad:
    Great article. I am also concerned on the state of education. I went to public schools in the West Bank and felt I received a solid education. I tought myself the rest. I had a library card.
    My brother’s kids are now going to private schools and colleges and it seems to me that they are not getting a great education.
    School and college kids seem to be consumers and not producers!

    If we want to live in a society where there is hope for upward mobility for students you need strong public education.

    I went to City College of New york which is a public school in NY and for 150 years helped low income students achieve success and contribute to science and society ( 10 noble prize winners).
    The state spends money on the colleges and in exchange the colleges produce very productive members of society.

    One thing that I learned in American Education is the ability to think for myself. I remember as a young immigrant how hard was it to me to start my own projects and write my own papers. My teachers wanted to know what I personally thought!! I was never asked in the Arab world for my personal opinion. Our teachers, where I grow up, wanted to tell me what I should think!

    We need to encourage young people to have critical thinking if we want to have an education system that make difference. Private or public.

    Young students should be encourage to ask why? and How? This of course is dangerous in schools where authority figures have cushy job and don’t want to be questioned.

  13. Luay Istanbuli Avatar
    Luay Istanbuli

    Excellent, True (at least for the Arch Dep), Very Important, and needs urgent serious attention. Thank you.

  14. Eman Jaradat Avatar
    Eman Jaradat

    Great !! I totally agree

  15. theone Avatar

    So what’s the point? I mean yes what you said is right and I know it and I am sure that many highly ranked figures in the government know it too. What is the solution ? I really don’t know. I remember I visited my university in 2008 which was 2 years after my graduation. I spent some time with a lab engineer who told me that he will be amazed if he finds 5 out of 15 students with pens and notebooks, ” How are they going to write the outcomes of their experiments ?” he wondered. It’s not just that we don’t have good plans from the government but also students lost interest. I talked with a Malaysian journalist who works in Boston and we discussed how Malaysia was transformed from just another third world country to high tech country in relatively short time. It’s an amazing story and every country can learn from their experience.

  16. VIVAYEMEN Avatar

    I just graduated from highschool and people have been telling me that the university of jordan has one of the best medical schools in the mid-east . im exteremly shocked , i was going to apply next sept. i’m from yemen btw . after reading this post i’ll certainly re-think that . i was going to study abroad (UK or Canada) but alot of people told me it’s way easier and shorter to study medicine in an arab country because i don’t have to get a science degree before going into medical school anyways plz help i dont know what to do now ?.it’s a REAL disapointment

  17. jamal Avatar

    i think j.u.s.t. university is doing fine, its has develoded in the past decade, i visited it last month, there is ahuge progress and its gradutes are doing well abroad, and there is no violence at the campus there.

  18. Nadine Avatar

    The problem doesn’t start in the universities. The problem starts in the home, with students choosing their majors based on their high school grades. That’s why you get students that are completely unmotivated and unwilling to put any effort into their education. There’s a lack of basic ethics too, I think it’s safe to say that 90% of university students in Jordan think it’s completely normal to cheat. Knowing everyone around you is getting grades they don’t deserve does a lot to kill dedication.

    The universities are terrible, but I wouldn’t be so fast to dismiss them. Half of my friends that went out of Jordan spend their time partying. Is that really better?