In 2021, it is impossible to discuss the subject of reputation without looking at the impact of Covid19, and this is perhaps another key sign that an institution’s reputation cannot be solely attributable to rankings.  So how did Covid19 impact the reputation of the institutions of the panel at the World 100-moderated session at the THE Arab Rankings Forum on 27 July? Three main themes were mentioned across the board: speed of reaction, online learning, and visibility in the community. Whilst these are the responses we have come to expect by now, from our own extensive research into universities during the pandemic, it was interesting how the themes linked to each other.

For example, at American University of the Middle East, speed of reaction and transitioning to online were related, as Nathalie Bouldoukian explained:

AUM was the first university in Kuwait that reacted to this pandemic. After 8 days we could go online, and we could launch online for all the students. What helped us was the readiness of all the students, the faculty, and the infrastructure of the IT because, since the foundation of the university, we had a learning management system and a student information system and all the faculty and students in their induction follow training to cope with this requirement, so it was smooth.”

As for the faculty members, they continued their activities; their participation in conferences online and the operations at the institution are like anywhere. We have a new normal here as they say. It was very smooth. I think it had a positive impact on the reputation of the university in terms of dynamism and strong institutional roots and support”

impact of covid on Arab universities online

Philip Purnell also mentioned how UAE University was very quick to go online, emphasising however, that this did not mean they were offering online earning, instead referring to it as ‘emergency remote teaching’. The university already had an online and blended learning strategy and were keen to make sure that covid did not force their hand in jumping forward in that strategy but to continue to develop and accelerate their online learning programme.

More prevalent for United Arab Emirates University, was the link between promptness and community support.  “Covid has provided an opportunity for many universities, and I know that UAE immediately embraced the challenge and reacted very quickly and perhaps in a different way to others”, Philip Purnell commented. “We were very quick at UAE university to provide PCR testing for all the staff and students that we could, and the university opened its campus for providing PCR testing for people outside the university from the community Then when it came to vaccinations the same thing happened. The campus was opened not only for vaccinating people from within the university, but people also from the local community. And the university medical faculty took a leading role in national clinical trials of the vaccines that we used within the emirate of Abu Dhabi and for a foreign one, the Sputnik trial -we’ve also been part of that.

All this feeds into the reputation of the university. When the community knows that a national flagship university is taking a lead in testing, vaccinating, and providing appropriate teaching, I think that does help and will help in the rankings.”

impact of covid on Arab universities vaccines