Iyad Abualrub from Master to PhD: a reflection
Iyad Abualrub is a PhD research fellow at the Department of Education in the Faculty of Education, University of Oslo. He received his MPhil degree in Higher Education from the same department in 2009. After finishing his MPhil degree in Higher Education at UiO, he worked as a consultant in external relations and academic cooperation at the President’s office of Birzeit University. He has also worked as assistant researcher with a UK charity, the Qattan Foundation, at its center for educational research and development (QCERD).
Why did you choose to attend the PhD programme in Higher Education at the University of Oslo?
Through my study and work I found Higher Education a very interesting and challenging field. It keeps gaining increased global attention. The emergence of the notion of knowledge economy, the global competition for knowledge resources and the connection between education and development, have all put higher education sector under strong focus of both researchers and politicians.
As for why I chose the University of Oslo as a place to study, during my master studies in higher education at the University and through my contacts with its PhD fellows and professors, I found the research environment there very resourceful and supportive. There are wide contacts with local, regional and international institutions and researchers in higher education, extensive links to latest studies conducted in the field, in addition to advanced IT facilities and strong academic and administrative support. All of these factors have encouraged me to choose University of Oslo again as a place of study and to do my PhD research there.
What are your main research interests in higher education and why?
My research interest is learning environments in universities, from an institutional perspective. I will investigate the perceptions of Norwegian universities about learning environments, with a focus on the institutional influences that affect these perceptions. I chose this topic for three main reasons. First, the increasing interest in educational studies and polices in learning environments in higher education institutions. Second, the strong emphasis in these studies and policies on universities as responsible of providing good learning environments to their students. Third, although universities are held responsible of this task, their perceptions of learning environments have rarely been investigated. The studies have often often looked at this concept form the students' perspectives and ignored the the institutions where learners learn.
Looking back at your experiences in Oslo when you were a master student, what would you say were the main highlight and challenge?
The main highlight is the equality among people. The free access to education for all people is a great example of this equality. The main challenge is the weather; the dark cold winters and cloudy and rainy days in the summer.
What inspired and lead you to your current studies?
First, my interest in the field of higher education and the research on it. Second, the strong focus among the society in my own country on education and the interest of universities there to improve themselves as higher education institutions. Finally, the increasing attention to this field in the world, including Norway.
What advice would you give to aspiring and current students of higher education as to how to accomplish future aspirations?
Be active. Search and get involved in activities related the field. This includes taking the initiative to form and participate in work and study groups and forums, workshops and meetings, study trips and conferences.
Always, be a learner including both during and after your studies. Your resources should not be limited only to the information you get from books, articles in the field, and supervisors. Experiences, feedback and comments from people around you are also of critical value in the progress and advancement of your work.
And finally, think critically. Be aware that you are not supposed to be a receiver of ready meals of information. You need to seek them out and understand them. To understand the studies of researchers and decisions of policy makers in your field, you need to investigate the basis and assumptions upon which these conclusions and decisions are drawn. Then, you have to establish your own position and decide where you agree and disagree with these conclusions and decisions. You need to justify your position and find who agrees and disagrees with you among other authors and players in the field.