Sanʿa University

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One of two universities in the Republic of Yemen.

For a long time Sanʿa University was the only university in the former Yemen Arab Republic. Since its founding in 1970, Sanʿa University has grown dramatically in the number of students and faculty, become diversified in the degrees and programs it offers, and improved the quality of its educational offerings. The university began on a modest, ad hoc basis with a teachers' college and a law school; the first external aid for the university was secured from Kuwait during its first year, and Kuwait remained its biggest benefactor throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Its arts and science faculties underwent rapid growth during its first decade, and among the departments created during the 1980s were engineering, agriculture, and medicine. By 1990 it occupied two large, modern campuses in the city. Since Sanʿa University was funded over the years largely by Kuwait, modeled on and guided by Kuwait University, and staffed through the 1980s mostly by Egyptians, it tended for a long time to be something of a pale carbon copy of Kuwait University's carbon copy of Cairo University. Consequently, a theme at least since the beginning of the 1980s has been the struggle to make the university relevant to the nature and needs of Yemen through the Yemenization of its program, faculty, and administration. In addition, classes have been coeducational from the outset, making it a battleground between secular modernists and resurgent Islamic conservatives.

By the 1990s, Sanʿa University, while continuing to grow, was merely the flagship of a national university system that had smaller units in all major cities; indeed, with Yemeni unification in 1990, it had to share top billing with the large, long-established Aden University. More significantly, the failure of Yemen to join the international coalition during the crisis and war in the Persian Gulf during 1990 and 1991 led to the total loss of Kuwaiti funding, a loss that has not been made up since from other sources. The continuing growth in the demand for higher education and a regime that has not made meeting the need for higher education a top priority have led to an erosion of the quality of education at Sanʿa University and throughout the university system generally since the early 1990s. Class size increases, the need for new offerings goes largely unmet, and many current and potential faculty members are seeking employment in other countries and professions. Higher education in Yemen is in crisis, and not only at Sanʿa University.

see also cairo university; gulf crisis (19901991); kuwait university; sanʿa; yemen.

robert d. burrowes