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Catalysing Kuwait’s knowledge-based economy: Revamping higher education policy at Kuwait University for Vision 2035

Amthal Hamad Al.Oraifan, PhD researcher at University of Strathclyde

The shift in education to digitisation has increased the need for adaptability and innovation (Ayoub et al., 2023). This pivot is deeply intertwined with the metamorphosis of higher education policies on a regional and global scale. Kuwait, a renowned petroleum-oriented economy, has embarked on an ambitious path of higher education policy reform to align its tertiary education system. However, the discourse surrounding educational reforms often does not align with the local cultural and societal nuances, particularly in Arab countries (Ayoub et al., 2023). This has been a consistent issue, with earlier policies also showing a lack of strategic considerations for the local context (International Training Administration, 2023). The Arab Gulf countries, including Kuwait, have been under the spotlight for their education reforms in recent decades (Kuwait Voluntary National Review, 2019). These reforms have often been seen as reactions to global pressures rather than driven by internal dynamics (Findlow & Hayes, 2016). While the Kuwait education system is striving towards standardising education in accordance with international standards, the success of these reforms is still under scrutiny both internally and externally.

The discourse on education policies in these regions often highlights the challenges of managing and mobilising talent (Azman et al., 2016). Universities play a critical role in this aspect. However, aligning the interests of multiple stakeholders, including students, educators and policymakers, remains a challenge (Deaconu et al., 2014). Innovative behavior is critical in driving the necessary changes in the education system. Empowered employees can significantly contribute to improving job productivity and bringing about innovations (Mutonyi, 2021). Collaborative learning environments can also help improve outcomes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education (Micari & Pazos, 2021).

Qualitative research methods such as discourse analysis can be effectively employed to delve deeper into these issues and derive meaningful insights (Curtis et al., 2021). A careful study of policy discourse surrounding education reforms can shed light on who deserves benefits in higher education and the processes involved in policy formulation (Gándara & Jones, 2020). Moreover, it’s important to challenge the deficit discourse that often characterises students from under-represented groups. The exploration of staff perceptions through reverse mentoring can help achieve positive outcomes (Curtis et al., 2021).

On a broader scale, there is a need to problematise the concept of ‘education’ in the modernisation agenda for higher education (Custers & Magalhães, 2023). This requires a redefinition of competency-based education and the incorporation of critical thinking in research (Jones Morel & Griffiths, 2017). A critical discourse analysis of higher education policies can facilitate this process (Kimball & Friedensen, 2019). The findings and insights from these studies can be effectively used to drive meaningful reforms in the education system and create a conducive environment for innovation and empowerment in the Arab Gulf countries.

‘The move towards a knowledge-based economy in Kuwait necessitates a thorough re-evaluation and reform of its higher education policies.’

In conclusion, the move towards a knowledge-based economy in Kuwait necessitates a thorough re-evaluation and reform of its higher education policies. Central to this is the recognition of the unique cultural and societal nuances of the Arab world, and an appreciation of the role that universities can play in talent management. Higher education reform should be proactive, internally driven and considerate of the interests of all stakeholders. To engender an environment conducive to innovation, educators and policymakers need to foster innovative behaviour and establish collaborative learning platforms, particularly in STEM fields. Qualitative research methods and discourse analysis could serve as valuable tools in deriving insights from policy discourse and examining the broader concept of ‘education’. The challenge is not only to implement international education standards but also to redefine competency-based education, embed critical thinking in research, and promote the empowerment of under-represented groups. By doing so, Kuwait can utilise the transformative potential of its higher education sector to achieve the aims of Vision 2035.


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Deaconu, A., Codruta, O., Monica, Z., & Achim, A. (2014). Competencies in higher education system: An wmpirical analysis of employers’ perceptions. Amfiteatru Economic, 16(37), 692–708. 

Findlow, S., & Hayes, A. (2016). Transnational academic capitalism in the Arab Gulf: Balancing global and local, and public and private, capitals. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 37(1), 110–128.

Gándara, D., & Jones, S. (2020). Who deserves benefits in higher education? A policy discourse analysis of a process surrounding reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Review of Higher Education, 44(1), 121–157.

Jones Morel, N., & Griffiths, B. (2017). Redefining competency based education: Competence for life. Business Expert Press.

Micari, M., & Pazos, P. (2021). Beyond grades: Improving college students’ social-cognitive outcomes in STEM through a collaborative learning environment. Learning Environments Research, 24(1).