AMMAN — The history of higher education in Jordan began with the opening of the University of Jordan (UJ) in 1962, said professor and former president of UJ Azmi Mahafzah.
Today, UJ, located in the Jubaiha neighbourhood of Amman, prides itself in the highest admissions averages in the country and its status as the premier higher education institution in the Kingdom.
It opened its doors after five years of discussions with the help of the British government, Mahafzah told The Jordan Times in an interview on Sunday.
The university was opened upon the request of then army chief Field Marshal Habis Majali, according to Mahafzah. “There was a British delegation visiting Jordan in the 1950s. When they asked him, ‘What do you need in your country?’ he answered: ‘A university!’” the professor explained.
Before UJ’s establishment in 1962, the Teachers House (Dar Al-Mualemeen) was the only higher education institution in the Kingdom, opened in 1958 with the aim of granting diplomas to teachers qualified through a two-year programme.
People who wanted to get a university degree had to leave the country, Mahafzah said.
“People used to go to neighbouring countries, like Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Egypt. Those who could afford to used to go to Italy, Spain and other European countries. And, of course, in the 70s, many of our students went to what was called Eastern Europe at that time, including the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania,” he said.
In the following years, Jordan witnessed the opening of many more universities. “In 1976, Yarmouk University was founded and they admitted the first batch of students in 1978,” Mahafzah noted, adding that the next university was Mutah University, established in 1981.
Mutah University was at first a military university, but then was divided into two wings: A military wing and a civil wing in 1986, the professor said.
Also in 1986, the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) located on the outskirts of Irbid, at Ramtha in northern Jordan, was founded, according to Mahafzah.
Until the end of the 1980s, higher education was the domain of these four public universities, he said.
The first private university was Al Ahliyya Amman University, which was established by decree of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research in 1989, and opened its doors in 1990, Mahafzah explained.
“In spite of the limited financial and human resources in the kingdom, higher education lies within the priorities of the state,” the Ministry of Higher Education website reads.
Today, there are 10 public universities and more than 20 private universities, in addition to community colleges and foreign universities operating in Jordan, according to the ministry.
“In Jordan, 85 per cent of those who finish high school go to university, which is an extremely high number even when compared to international figures,” Mahafzah concluded.
Source: The Jordan Times