Quality-Oriented Education and Workforce Reform: The Impact of Wasta (Case Study of Bahrain)

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Magadalena Karolak, Zayed UniversityFollow

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Book Chapter

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The Political Economy of Wasta: Use and Abuse of Social Capital Networking

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016. This chapter aims at examining the role of wasta in the context of tertiary education in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Bahrain is one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that has recently entered a path toward reforming its educational system as means of tackling the problems of sustainable development. Indeed, in the past Bahrain’s educational system, which is the oldest in the Arabian Gulf, suffered from a number of problem characteristics of countries with rapidly expanding educational services and lack of proper regulations. A study conducted in 2007 by the newly appointed Council of Higher Education, for instance, revealed academic and administrative irregularities in Bahrain’s universities such as the issuance of degrees without the required credits (Toumi 2010b), the trespassing of the required student-faculty ratio, or the delivery of courses and degrees without a proper license (Toumi 2009). These negative aspects proved a general flexibility in the educational standards, one that could be negotiated based on an individual’s money or social standing. In addition, a mismatch between the skills and degrees acquired at the university level and the requirements of the job market was stressed. A holistic educational reform that began in 2004 ought to provide the foundations for a prospering and sustainable economy that maximizes the use of the human capital for challenges of growth. While the educational reform is since well under way, any such undertaking must also take into account unwritten practices that govern relationships between various groups and individuals in society. One such practice widely reported in the Middle East is wasta, a practice of using the web of relationship an individual possesses to achieve certain goals, which may not be attainable to him/her without the support of another, usually, more authoritative figure in the specific domain one requires to achieve the goal. Indeed, such practices have been studied and reported as widespread in the fields of employment, management, and provision of governmental services. Using wasta may secure an individual employment, a promotion, or access to a governmental service, among others, which without wasta could not be obtained for various reasons such as lengthy bureaucratic procedure, the bias of decision makers, or simply lack of skills, to name but a few. The practice of wasta functions especially in contexts where there is a shortage of access to a particular service or shortage of opportunities due to high competition.




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