The critical impact of higher education on the socio-economic development of the OIC member states and in equipping the youth in these countries to address the challenges of the 21st century can be hardly overemphasised. Excellence in knowledge, research and innovation is imperative for the Muslim world to reclaim its rightful place in the international arena. Advancing the acquisition and popularisation of knowledge is one of the key objectives of the OIC Charter. The Charter commits the member states to the objective of enhancing and developing science and technology and encouraging research and cooperation among member states in these fields.
The OIC Vision 1441H (2020) for Science and Technology, adopted by the 10th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference (Putrajaya, Malaysia, 2003) and the Ten Year Programme of Action (TYPOA), adopted by the 3rd Extraordinary Session of the Islamic Summit Conference (Makkah, Saudi Arabia, 2005) acknowledge the political, developmental, social, cultural and educational challenges facing the Muslim world and outlines ways and means to address them in an objective and pragmatic manner. In the areas of science and technology, research and higher education, the Vision 1441H and the TYPOA call for effective improvement and reform of educational institutions and curricula at all levels and linking post graduate studies to the comprehensive development plans of the Islamic world. The two documents stress the need for according priority to science and technology and quality education that promotes creativity, innovation, and research and development. To this end, they underline the need for academic interaction and exchange of knowledge among the academic institutions of the member states. They further call for a comprehensive strategy to assimilate highly qualified Muslims within the Muslim world and utilisation of their expertise.
With a view to taking practical steps towards strengthening the bonds of Islamic solidarity and achieving its renaissance, the OIC General Secretariat has put in place a framework for greater cooperation and linkages in academia i.e. learning, teaching and research. The OIC Educational Exchange Programme incorporates ‘solidarity’ both as a means as well as an end. It can play a positive role towards promoting solidarity and fostering understanding and tolerance among the member states besides enriching the educational experience of the students as well as faculty and encouraging exchange of knowledge and ideas among them.
OIC Vision 1441H: “OIC member states are committed to become a community that values knowledge and its competent in utilising and advancing science and technology to enhance the socio-economic well-being of the Ummah.”
The OIC Educational Exchange Programme deals with the post-graduate, masters, research levels and include exchange of students, faculty members and researchers for short durations (6-10 weeks) between interested institutions of higher education in the member states.
The OIC Educational Exchange Programme ‘Solidarity through Academia’ includes the following components.
A growing number of member states are offering scholarships, through the OIC General Secretariat, at the post-graduate, masters, doctoral and post-doctoral levels. These scholarships are being offered in selected fields including physical sciences, engineering, ICT, medicine and pharmacy. Admission criteria, application and selection procedures, security and immigration requirements are notified along with individual scholarship offers by the member states.
The component of faculty exchange is useful in terms of exchange of diverse expertise and experience and for addressing faculty deficit in the universities. The Faculty Exchange Programme encompasses both short-term and long-term arrangements for faculty exchange. Higher education institutions both in the public and private sectors are encouraged to make offers for the faculty exchange on reciprocal or unilateral basis in accordance with their needs and priorities. The General Secretariat processes requests from the member states to meet their faculty deficit in specified fields from within the OIC academia.
Distance learning programmes based on Higher Education Networks, integrating the best faculty members in Islamic countries, can be implemented for addressing faculty deficit in universities and to benefit from diverse expertise and experiences. Complete courses could be taught through video-conferences or other means of distant learning. In this regard the General Secretariat performs a clearing house function facilitating the matching of offers from member states with the requests received.
This component of the programme involves exchange of researchers for on-going projects of interest to both parties or initiation of new joint projects. During the exchange period, researchers can work on their research projects, organize seminars and workshops in selected topics along with researchers of the same subjects in the host countries and attend lectures in relevant subjects being taught at the host institution.
The General Secretariat coordinates with the member states with the relevant expertise for securing training courses/ specialised projects to cater to the specific needs of requesting member states. Such specialised requests are dealt with on a case-to-case basis. Member states have been invited to communicate their offers of scholarships, exchange proposals as well as requirements in terms of faculty, distance learning and research collaboration proposals to the Department of Science and Technology.