Interview with Ahmad K. Jammal

Ahmad Jammal is currently Director of Higher Education from the Ministry of Higher Education in Lebanon and a dedicated HERE Team member

With a longstanding expertise in higher education, Mr. Jammal has worked on the management of higher education (HE) systems, the development of strategic policy in HE, development of regulations in HE, and the development of internal & external quality assurance (QA) procedures and indicators in HEIs.  After a long career as university professor and as researcher in electrical engineering from 1985 to 1996, Mr. Jammal worked at UNESCO Beirut as Technical coordinator for a pilot study in Electronics' Standard Laboratories & Workshops for the Minister of Vocational and Technical Education (MVTE) in Lebanon and also as adviser to the MVTE. Mr Jammal leads a Directorate the oversees both public and private institutions in a complex higher education system that has been shaped by French, American and other international influence



SPHERE Team:  What is your role in the HERE team? What is the importance to have a ministry representative in the HERE team?

Ahmad Jammal: I started to work closely with the HERE group from the beginning, 10 years ago, but I was not a member of the group until 2016. From the start, all the meetings of the group were taking place at the Ministry of Higher Education. I believe that the role of the Ministry is very important because, as we know, the HERE mission is to help the Ministry in its efforts to plan and develop the higher education sector. In our case, having the Ministry in the HERE team is very instrumental for the successful implementation of our national strategy and for the future development of higher education.


ST: What are the dynamics of the Lebanese HERE team? How do they work together and how they complement each other?

AJ: The team is well balanced in terms of gender and the diversity of its expertise. The team includes members experienced in different fields; we have two from the research sector, one from the international relations sector and one from the quality assurance sector. Most of them have important positions in their institutions and they come from universities implementing different types of systems like the American or European system. Many of the team members have good experience in international projects and in particular in EU programmes like Tempus, Erasmus Mundus and currently Erasmus+. The team meets regularly almost every 15 days to discuss different issues and to plan actions at the national level. In addition, we conduct surveys when needed to assess how we should develop our actions as higher education reformers.  


ST: Can you give us examples on how the HERE in Lebanon have contributed to the policy reform in the past 2 years?

AJ: The HERE participated in many of the regulations and legal frameworks that have been set up. With HERE support, we are also developing the National Qualifications Framework which is still in process. HERE also participated in the preparation of the law related to quality and to the creation of the independent Lebanese Quality Assurance agency. In addition, HERE work closely with the ministry and other institutions to develop a Charter on Civic Engagement signed by universities.


ST: How have the Lebanese HERE used the Technical Assistance Missions (TAMs)?

AJ:  Based on reflections and discussion within the team, a set of TAMs are decided. The team uses the TAMs in two different ways: first by opening the debate on issues of interest for Lebanese Reform agenda, second by exposing Lebanese Academics to international experience. The team is trying to establish sustainable results like, exemplified by its latest attempt to gather Lebanese higher education around a national charter on Civic Engagement in HE. Rethinking Lebanese higher education is a pressing issue. We have discussed this with our HERE colleagues. The national strategy of higher education dates back to 2007 and after 10 years we have to rethink our strategy. We are preparing a TAM on this and it is planned to be organised next autumn. Finally, we are also looking to have a TAM on doctoral studies. This is important because now we have a new law on the regulation of doctoral studies and it is very important to disseminate this and benchmark with international practices.


ST:  Which TAM has been most helpful and why?

AJ: Many TAMs were important, in fact.  For example, this year we held a TAM on Civic Engagement in Lebanese Higher Education. With this event we have succeeded in creating a task force and we have prepared a draft for a charter on Civic Engagement that was sent to all universities. We hope we will create a platform on to show good practices from different universities. We want to extend that because we need more and more engagement of our universities in society issue.


ST: Why did you choose to attend the HERE Seminar “Universities and social engagement” held last June in Nicosia? How it is relevant for Lebanon right now?

AJ: It is important to have the experience from others. For example, the experience from Ireland and the networking with other universities on social engagement was very interesting. It is easy to say ‘I will work with civic engagement’ but it is important to define some KPI’s and to evaluate the process. I discovered many things done by the EUA, for example concerning refugees, which is very important to us in Lebanon. In general, it is very important to have participants’ experiences and to look at good practices from other universities and other countries about the implementation of civic engagement and about the situation of refugees.  


ST: How do you intend to use the knowledge acquired during this seminar in the Lebanese strategy? 

AJ: First, regarding the mapping of good practices of  universities concerning the refugees, this is very interesting. We will disseminate this and encourage universities to fulfil their good practices as well. Secondly, every time we participate in an event like this, we go back and try to organise a kind of workshop or seminar for all the universities. This is very important for them and also helps us to define means to follow up.