A War of Attrition: Higher Education in Yemen

Fahmi Khaled, Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies, March 20, 2024


The war has broken many of the basic elements of Yemeni society — but the legacy of its now-shattered higher education system will endure far beyond the cessation of hostilities. Unpaid salaries, plummeting enrollment, and unregulated privatization have eroded the quality of Yemen’s higher education system and left it teetering on the brink of collapse. The consequences of this collapse are far-reaching, for educators, students, and the country at large, with economic and social effects that will be felt far into the future.

Academics are struggling to cope with the basic costs of living without regular salary payments, and some have been forced to seek alternative employment not considered commensurate with their educational background and social status. As teachers have been forced to focus primarily on survival, and contend with associated negative mental health effects, the quality of education has declined. Over the past eight years of war, eight classes have graduated from Yemeni universities, and each should have produced tens of thousands of graduates to enter the workforce. Instead, these classes have been miniscule, and many graduates have not been properly taught fundamental skills. In the coming years, Yemenis will need to depend on these recently graduated professionals, including doctors for treating patients, civil engineers for maintaining and rebuilding infrastructure, and teachers for educating the next generation.

The overall outlook is bleak: an entire generation of Yemen’s workforce has been lost, and there is a real danger that the broken education system will fuel a downward spiral in capacity and human capital.

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