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  • Amr Ezzat Salama: “The Benchmarking Framework is capable of improving the quality of online education, which has become an integral part of universities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 
  • Dhahi Khalfan Tamim: “The Benchmarking Framework is the product of the University's efforts to consolidate knowledge and scientific innovation and explore the future of smart education to lay a solid foundation for the sector and enable it to keep pace with accelerated global changes.”
  • The launch of a Consortium for the Benchmarking Framework’s official website will provide a significant boost to the quality of education and ensure easy exchange of information, that is in line with the trends of the digital age.

In line with the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University’s proactive efforts to uphold quality as a core value in the positive transformation of higher education, the HBMSU recently organized a high-level meeting for the members of the Consortium for the Benchmarking Framework for Online, Open, Smart and Technology-oriented Higher Education, which was launched last February during the Innovation Arabia 15 Summit.

The meeting agenda included announcing the success of the pilot implementation of the benchmarking framework, which boosted the ability of open and online universities to provide quality education. Five leading universities took part in the pilot implementation phase, namely, Asia e University, HBMSU, International Telematic University UNINETTUNO, University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU), and Universitas Terbuka.

The meeting was attended by the presidents, chancellors and representatives of various open and smart universities and was carried out in the presence of quality assurance agencies from different countries of the world. Participants also endorsed the official website launch of the Consortium for Benchmarking Framework. This launch signifies a significant step towards strengthening the linkages between higher educational institutions, education experts, and decision makers from participating universities around the world, enabling faster implementation of the benchmarking framework to improve the quality and ensure the continuity of higher education. 

The website will also provide information regarding the most successful practices in the field of online higher education, allowing institutions to remain constantly updated. It will also have a section dedicated to consortium members, allowing them to automatically enter and analyze data and provide accurate information that will support decision-making. The site can be accessed via the following link (https://benchmarking.hbmsu.ac.ae).

HE Dr. Amr Ezzat Salama, Secretary General of the Association of Arab Universities (AArU), commended the team’s expertise in being able to develop, test, and implement the indicators and guides of the benchmarking framework. She also pledged to implement the framework in Arab universities and work towards expanding its application beyond online universities to include every university in the Arab world. This is due to the benchmarking framework’s ability to enhance the quality and ensure the continuity of online education, which has become an integral factor for universities to consider in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

H.E. Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Deputy Chairman of Police and General Security in Dubai, and Chairman of Board of Governors of HBMSU, said: “The university is constantly working to coordinate with strategic partners on the development and modernization of higher education methods, both at the national level, as well as regional and global levels. The initiative further reflects the insightful vision of our wise leadership and is in accordance with the UAE Vision 2071, which aims to explore the future of all sectors, including Education for the Future, by developing enhanced and sustained mechanisms for innovation and excellence to transform UAE’s educational institutions into global research centers.”
He added: “The Benchmarking Framework for Online, Open, Smart and Technology-enhanced Higher Education is part of the efforts of HBMSU to consolidate knowledge and scientific innovation and explore the future of smart learning to lay a solid foundation for the education sector. This allows us to keep pace with accelerated global changes, in accordance with good leadership directives that stress the need to stay current with rapid development and enhance competencies and skills.”

Professor Nadia Badrawi, President of the Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ANQAHE) commended the team’s efficient employment of scientific methods to verify the reliability of the benchmarking framework’s indicators and guides. Badrawi further emphasized the need to strengthen the framework with regards to cooperation with quality assurance agencies in higher education. She stated that this would help merge the benchmarking framework’s indicators and guides with the prevailing standards in universities, creating a significant positive influence that will work towards raising the current standards of quality in higher education. 

The meeting also acknowledged the support of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), the official partner of the benchmarking framework. Torunn Gjelsvik, Secretary General of ICDE, expressed her delight in partnering with the Consortium for the Benchmarking Framework, and highlighted the impressive outcomes achieved by experts. Furthermore, Tecnologico de Monterrey and Western Caspian University were also welcomed as members of the Consortium with the aim of promoting their efforts to fulfill the urgent global need for high-quality online education.  

H.E. Dr. Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of HBMSU congratulated the team, and stated that the success of the pilot stage involved the participation of five universities and reflected a promising beginning for the global implementation of the benchmarking framework. His Excellency also acknowledged that the enthusiastic participation of various international universities, quality assessment institutions, and university consortiums contributed to making this achievement possible. He further congratulated the consortium’s ability to identify the need to unify under their shared vision to disseminate quality knowledge and apply a framework to integrate global standards, which will now assist in the assessment and promotion of online, open, smart, and technology-oriented higher education. 

Al Awar also highlighted the commitment of HBMSU in collaboration with ICDE and other member universities to enhance international negotiations and facilitate the exchange of successful practices and latest data. He noted that this would further establish online education as a key driving force to provide quality education in all communities. These efforts, he added, would transform into a lifelong learning opportunity that would be in line with the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN to build a better world for humanity. 

H.E Al Awar stated further, “Through the Consortium for the Benchmarking Framework for Online, Open, Smart, and Technology-enhanced Higher Education, we look forward to leading a journey of change in the higher education system. We aim to transform the system to be dynamic and flexible, evolving with the needs of the digital era. This progress will be based on the pillars of technology, innovation, and quality established by the directives of H.H Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and University President. We vow to continue our efforts to promote international collaboration, and find unified frameworks that will enhance the quality, competence, and transparency of the online, open, smart, and technology-oriented higher education. This can only be achieved by adopting integrated mechanisms of self-assessment and consistently establishing high levels of performance. This will further the quality of our educational outcomes and ensure their compatibility with the needs of the digital era.”

The meeting concluded with an announcement inviting new members from the distinguished pool of universities, policy makers, experts, officials of academic institutions, quality assessment authorities, and international organizations to join the Consortium for the Benchmarking Framework. This step has been implemented to promote prospects of international collaboration on all levels, allowing them to achieve the highest quality levels for education. 

The first edition of the Benchmarking Framework was developed in collaboration with all members of the consortium, which consisted of prominent universities and associations including the Association of Arab Universities, Asian Association of Open Universities, Commonwealth of Learning, Arab Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education, UNESCO-International Center for Higher Education Innovation, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities, and others.