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Survey: 91% of Researchers in Arab Nations Want to Emigrate

December 5, 2019
 
 

Ninety-one percent of researchers working in Arab countries would like to emigrate to another nation for a permanent academic position, according to a new survey by Al-Fanar, a publication that covers higher education in the Middle East. The researchers cited as their top reasons for wanting to move “more opportunity to advance in my discipline and conduct sophisticated research” (80 percent), “better research facilities” (57 percent), “more academic freedom” (43 percent), “better salary” (42 percent), and “escaping corruption and bureaucracy” (37 percent). The researchers cited Europe, followed by the United States/Canada, as their preferred destinations, but some expressed a desire to migrate to another Arab nation.

A total of 650 researchers responded to the survey, which was distributed via Al-Fanar’s mailing list and also disseminated by what Al-Fanar described as some of its “informal partners,” including universities, funding agencies and research agencies. Researchers from Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia were strongly represented, accounting for close to half (47 percent) of all respondents, while there was lower representation of researchers from the Gulf nations. Researchers from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates together accounted for 10 percent of all respondents.

The survey focused on challenges to conducting academic research. More than half (52 percent) of researchers said their universities do not provide free access to academic journals, and 47 percent said they did not have a reliable internet connection on campus. Close to three-quarters -- 71 percent -- said it was very “somewhat difficult,” “difficult” or “very difficult” to attend international conferences, with the top-cited obstacle to conference participation being lack of funding from their institution, followed by the need to obtain visas or other travel documents.

Survey respondents identified lack of funding as the top obstacle to doing research. But Al-Fanar found that even among respondents from the oil-rich nations that make up the Gulf Corporation Council, 81 percent of researchers said they would prefer to work elsewhere to pursue more academic freedom and improved career opportunities.

A report about the survey results cautions that researchers who are unhappy with their working conditions may be disproportionately represented: “Because the survey’s focus was on the challenges that researchers in Arab region face, people with negative opinions about the research climate in Arab countries may have been more motivated to complete the survey,” it says.

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