The Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) has launched the pilot of its ‘TAFAHUM’ program, an academic exchange program involving students, faculty, and researchers at universities located in member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The pilot will see a collaboration between universities in Northwest Africa (also known as the Maghreb region) and Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), an international association comprising academic institutions that use the French language.

In the pilot run, 10 students from two universities from Morocco and two from Tunisia will be exchanged, involving the University of Sousse and University of Monastir in Tunisia; and Abdelmalek Essaadi University of Tangier-Tétouan and Ibn Tofail University of Kenitra in Morocco.

The ‘TAFAHUM’ program, which was inspired by the Arabic word for ‘mutual understanding’, aims to improve the development of science and technology in the Arab region.

Director General of ISESCO Abdualziz Othman Altwaijri said at the launch ceremony earlier this month that the project was a major milestone for joint Islamic action, as “it seeks to promote higher education and quality assurance at all its levels as well as academic cooperation and cultural understanding among the rising generations of students who are pursuing their studies at the universities of OIC Member States”.

He added that the project is looking to enhance partnerships among universities in the region by creating an advanced credit transfer system among universities to ensure homogeneous validation of curricula and recognition of qualifications.

The project also hopes to inculcate a culture of innovation and diversity within higher education institutions, as students, faculty, and researchers will be able to benefit from increased international mobility.

Though several of the world’s oldest universities are located in the Arab region, it has fallen behind in terms of global higher education standards – none of the region’s 1,700 universities ranked in recent Top 100 university rankings, reported University World News.

According to the Research and Scientific Development in OIC Countries report, only five out of 40 OIC member countries are above the world average in the innovation index.

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