Swiss Broadcasting Corporation
Interview by SwissInfo (part of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation)
This interview was hold in Bern, in the building of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation by a Swiss Journalist working for SwissInfo (the only newspaper in 10 Languages in Switzerland)
Published: 09 March 2015
In order to know the open Swiss University and its programs, SwissInfo of Swiss Radio and TV Society (SRG) met Vice Rector Habib Al Souleiman and asked some questions that might be relevant to people interested in studying. Following a few excerpts from the article from March 9, 2015 published in Swissinfo newspaper of SRF.
A private Swiss university starts an Arabic program as correspondence program – SWI Swissinfo.ch
With increasing interest in management and business sciences and the special role of Switzerland in this field, Swiss universities and colleges have become an objective for many students from alle over the world. In order to maximize profit in this field, the private Swiss university opened its doors to students, who wish to do correspondence studies in various sections, among these the Arabic program that welcomed first students in October 2014.
Swissinfo.ch: Why did Switzerland become the headquarter of the university?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: Because four languages are spoken in Switzerland and every foreigner is faced with this problem when he comes to this country. I know this problem well, because for many years – that is since 2007 – I have been working as custodian in Swiss educational institutions. Through this practical experience, I know that Arabs who come to Europe to work as attorneys, engineers, doctors etc. feel impelled to accept work, that is by far below their level of achievement. Even though that work is no shame, the society forces them to execute work that is below their level and qualifications. We hope that the open Swiss university will permit a new start for them.
Swissinfo.ch: Do you speak of a Swiss university or a branch of a foreign university?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: In the beginning, we started with the English language, then the Arabic section was opened. It is new, only a few months old. The lecturers from the English section are Swiss, British, American and from other Nationalities. What concerns the Arabic section, we opened our doors to interested students to apply. What concerns the certificates that we can issue in the English section along with our partners, they are accredited and bear the symbol of Ofqual, an educational institution that is connected to the British parliament.
That means, that you will receive an internationally accredited certificate. At the moment, we are negotiating for graduates of the Arabic sections to get the same recognition as English speaking students. It is important to know that the university, including the Arabic section, is fully accredited by ASIC that is itself acknowledged by the British government and is a member of UK NARIC and the European society for the standard guarantee of tertiary education ENQA. ENQA is recognized as the highest accrediting institution for tertiary education in Europe and its duty is the monitoring of Ministries of Education as well as accrediting institutions in Europe.
Furthermore it is a member of CHEA, the high education congress for accreditation – it is the highest institution for accreditation of universities in the US. According to information given by Mr. J. G. Ofqual accredited studies in another language than English not long ago. Therefore, we have handed in an application regarding the Arabic program und hope to get the acknowledgement for by the British Ofqual for graduates of the Arabic section soon. In case of not achieving this, we have an alternative. It would take three years and cost around EUR 600'000. The preparations for this work have been made and the work is being realized in Vienna.
An institution like the Swiss Ministry of Education shall be established with the goal to break the monopoly of the latter. It has signed the EQAR convention and we will receive the accreditation. Hence the certificates will be recognized in Switzerland and Europe.
Beside this we have the master plan, during three months we will be in the position to issue British certificates that recognized internationally and in Switzerland to students from the Arabic sections. The Arabic certificates are recognized by AsiQual. After completing the studies students receive a certificate of recognition by the institution if wanted. Besides that, the university certificate states that it is accredited by ASIC, that was established by the British government in 2007. The certificate is also acknowledged by the Business Management and IT which was established by the British Government in 1966. That is also mentioned in the Arabic certificate. Due to this a student, will not face any problems when stepping into a professional activity or continuing studies at an university.
After receiving membership of the American ACBSP the university applied for the official accreditation by ACBSP whose reputation reassembles the one of the American CHEA. The request has been approved. The recognition by the ACBSP will come into effect in September 2015. Besides that, we have had a recognition visit by the European Congress for Business Management ECBE that is part of ENQA which we talk it about already. The headquarters of this institution is in Switzerland. As for the university and its Arabic section included, it is legally eligible
to receive grants in Switzerland. That recognition is the commitment for providing a university curriculum at highest level.
Swissinfo.ch: Who provides the teaching materials that is being applied?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: The teaching material in different languages has been approved by Great Britain. Some of the programs have been provided by professors like the president of the English section, He is the former Director of the University of Phoenix (a state-run university in the US). He is himself a founder of teaching materials of the doctorate studies at the university of Liverpool. Besides that, we have professors from Swiss universities. He completed his doctorate at Swiss Universities. Teachers from Saudi, Egyptian and other Arabic universities teach a tour university.
Swissinfo.ch: One could ask, why should I decide on a study at your university and not at any other Swiss university?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: We are the only university that offers virtual learning. With this teaching method, the lectures are broadcasted live (voice and image). The student can see the lecturer and can converse with him and ask him his questions. In the case that the student has not time and cannot attend the live lecture, he can find the lecture on a special platform later. Even the exams are saved. Even students who are fathers or full time professionals can pursue this type of studies. At the open Swiss university, each full time professional can complete all stages of the curriculum parallel to his function. It is important to mention that fundamental differences between correspondence studies, learning via internet and virtual learning exist. Furthermore, the teaching and learning take place via a special Skype like program that guarantees the sight of and the interactive communication with the lecturer.
Swissinfo.ch: Is there already an existing scientific or professional collaboration with Swiss educational institutions?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: Up to now we have neither settlements for collaboration nor scientific partnerships with Swiss educational institutions even though we have started being in contact with a state-run university in Zurich. But the thing differs to British universities for example. A student who wants to do a doctorate at a certain university or to receive a master’s degree (the names of the universities are all on the website of the open Swiss university, all state-run universities), can after completion of undergraduate studies at our university change to his desired university or vice versa and this without facing any difficulties. The certificate he will receive there is internationally recognized.
Swissinfo.ch: An international university for students with basic education from different places and in very different educational systems. Is this diversity the challenge for your work?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: We consider this variety as an advantage and a positive factor. We have registered students from 70 countries. Quite a considerable number are originally from the Arabic world, but also from the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Mexico, Columbia etc. This cultural and geographic diversity is as a general rule an advantage for the students. Thanks to this diversity we can fight closeness, radicalism, racism and attempts of collusion in society. Furthermore the diversity helps with the close collaboration among scientists. The communication between the different regions, that is the distant cultures is simplified. It is important to mention that is not only the case at the level of students, but also at the level of professors and lecturers.
Swissinfo.ch: You have talked about fighting closeness and radicalism. Have certain organizations contacted you in order to express their support for the university? Or to profit from your work?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: Some days ago we were in touch with the president of parliament of the canton of Zurich and have raised this topic. We have encountered an encouraging attitude. She mentioned her desire to support collaboration. Also we have contacted various representatives of foreign embassies in Switzerland (among them a member of the diplomatic delegation of the republic of Chile and a member of a delegation from the Gulf States Cooperation Congress).
We warmly recommended to all our interlocutors the fact that knowledge and education is the best way to unite societies and that education is the only means capable of changing mental activity positively.
Swissinfo.ch: When was the work in the Arabic section at your university started?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: The Arabic section started in October 2014. Now we have registered students from all Arabic countries. The number total 120 students. We expect this number will grow. A fifth of the students are Arabs who migrated to the West.
Swissinfo.ch: How will you offer lecturers that on one hand are specialized in advanced scientific fields and on the other have a perfect command of the Arabic language?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: The lecturers of the Arabic section teach at other universities so we can guarantee, that the level remains comparable to the English section. We ourselves give preference to lecturers of Arabic language who are graduates of high ranking international universities and those who have practical teaching experience because certificates alone are not sufficient. The command of pedagogical aspect is a must.
Swissinfo.ch: Does the university assist with the receipt of a visa that is needed for entering Switzerland?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: At the moment, we don’t mingle with the visa issue. Students who are confronted with this problem can sit their exams at branches of the British Council in their countries or at our centres in almost all Arabic counties (worldwide 200 centres). Therefore, entering Switzerland is not mandatory. A student can also take his exams in the office of one of our accredited lecturers in their country our neighboured country.
Swissinfo.ch: Are there any existing commitments or conventions at cantonal or federal level?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: Yes, there are. Arabic students who reside in Switzerland can receive grants by the Swiss Government. Regarding this a convention exists between us and an institution that is subordinated to the Ministry of Finance. Because of this Arabic student who reside in Switzerland can study free of charge. The Swiss Government commits (the Arabic word is "and take care" which means they are "ready" however not "obliged") itself to pay the study fees for each level of study regardless the specialization.
Swissinfo.ch: The target of each private university is to generate profit. Do you pursue this goal?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: Surely the goal is not to generate profit. We are facing a project that will cost us EUR 600'000. Even if we could accept hundreds and thousands of Arabic students, they would never cover this amount. To generate profit is not our aim. Nevertheless, as each private university we try to guarantee our existence and continuity.
Swissinfo.ch: What are the terms of admission at this university?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: The situation differs from one level to the other. Someone wanting to complete undergraduate studies will need a baccalaureate. Whoever is not in the possession of this certificate can study for a year with us. We will issue an internationally acknowledged baccalaureate. We offer all levels of education from baccalaureate to PhD.
Swissinfo.ch: Do you test the equality of international certificates?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: All certificates that are issued by an internationally acclaimed university will be acknowledged without problems. Other certificates are forwarded to befriended universities and being checked regarding equality. As soon as the certificates are approved by the respective university, we will accept them.
Swissinfo.ch: Which other facilitations does your university offer to students?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: We take care that lecturers are near the students. If possible in the same city or in the same country so the contact is simple. Furthermore, we give proof that the diploma they receive, reassembles the level of a British certificate. This is important if the student wants to study at an other university.
Swissinfo.ch: Surely this project was possible thanks to the immense development of modern communication devices. To what degree are these devices available in the Arabic world?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: After matriculation, the students can use the services of the student assistance at the university. Regrettably internet services are weak in some countries. In other countries, the students suffer from censorship and the closure of websites. To resolve this problem, we try to offer alternatives. A fact is: without the availability of a computer and internet services, the students can’t study at our university.
Swissinfo.ch: How does the contact between the correspondent student and the administration of your institution occur?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: We communicated with our lecturers and students via programs that will transmit audio and image. Furthermore, the student can visit lecturers nearby face to face. Also, we are present in the Arabic world and in Switzerland. We can be reached via skype, viber, phone or E-Mail.
Swissinfo.ch: How does the student access scientific subjects? How is his academic level evaluated? How is it examined?
Dr. Habib Al Souleiman: After matriculation, the student can enter the university library where all lectures are available in audio and image. Also, a large number of books and encyclopedia that the student will need in order to prepare for exams. There are three types of exams: written, oral and practical. In addition, a thesis must be handed in by master and PhD students
The text was literally translated.
The translator bears no responsibility for its contents. (OUS has no responsibility for the translated document, only the original text)
Winterthur, Sept 28, 2016
Original Article published here