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Higher education institutions and actors are critical in the establishment and consolidation of open societies. The Higher Education Support Program is committed to strengthening universities by fostering their capacity and leadership in pursuit of well-informed, vigorous, and inclusive communities.

Our strategy involves countries where higher education can play a decisive role in supporting open societies. The program focuses on the following two initiatives:

  • empowering independent voices and promoting substantive debate on higher education reform in countries in transition
  • bridging gaps in university curricula and knowledge production on issues of social justice, democratic practice, and human rights


​Through 2018, we will identify and focus on a limited number of countries in transition such as Burma, Palestine, Tunisia, and Senegal, among others, where reforms and improvement of higher education can lead to a more pluralistic and inclusive form of democratic education that contributes to social change.

We also work on the issue of food security in the context of climate change in Africa by supporting innovative knowledge networks and repositories where education resources are openly available, and contributing to a South–South policy dialogue.



The Program Officer for Higher Education Support Program role requires comprehensive knowledge in the field of Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa, to include current controversies, issues and leading figures and thinking, along with substantial knowledge of organizational and cross-cultural leadership.

The Program Officer is the pivotal non-supervisory programmatic role at OSF.  This role has responsibility for monitoring fields of interest to OSF, developing appropriate strategies and tools for fostering desired social change, managing relationships with other entities including potential and current grantees, OSF-affiliated foundations, other civil society and social change organizations, etc., making grant decisions, participating in collaborative decision-making both within OSF and with external entities, and related key responsibilities.

This role is responsible for contributing to, communicating, executing and helping to revise one or more complex strategies, including attention to resource issues.   This role works with minimal supervision, solving problems independently and collaboratively.  This role is responsible for contributing to the effective functioning of the program overall.

The Program Officer role includes project management, which extends to effective deployment of time, money, and human resources, network-wide or similarly complex coordination, effective communication, and collaborative problem-solving. This role builds and maintains strong, trusting relationships internally and in the field of specialization across cultures and geographies.  Competing interests, complex political and cultural factors, and tensions between long- and short-term goals must all be managed effectively.


Typical Duties and Responsibilities:

  • responsible for all grant-making activities relating to Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa. Operates autonomously and makes decisions related to authorizing/declining grants within an approved budget reflective of own field experience/expertise.


  • working within the broader program strategy designs, renews and evaluates grants and other tools for bringing about change.


  • builds collaborative relationships within and outside OSF that advance grant-making and other social change efforts within own areas (e.g., existing grantees, prospective grantees, experts in the community).


  • may participate in the development of overall program strategy and conduct research for input into program design.


  • manages projects that include staff within/outside OSF which may be regional or global in nature.


  • guides the work of program and/or administrative staff in support of grant-making or other program activities.


  • responsible for strengthening connections between regional and thematic programs within the broader priorities of OSF. Identifying opportunities where a shared approach might have the potential to create a broader impact and in those cases, design an engagement strategy that respects each actor’s autonomy but can realize the potential of a shared approach.


PROFILE – Program Officer


Skills and Abilities

  • can articulate a deep understanding of and vision for social change based on experience and/or knowledge of Higher Education in the Middle East and North Africa and be able to use that understanding to develop a strategy for achieving the vision.


  • has the ability to analyse the social and political landscape in the region, and understand the roles that the universities can play to effect social change and reform


  • demonstrates an understanding of the implications of the power differential inherent in the funder- grantee relationship, and has demonstrated an ability tohandle such relationships properly and respectfully.


  • comprehensive understanding of the structure and workings of both formal and informal organizations (NGO/non-profit organizations), networks, and movements within varied contexts and as appropriate to the program is key.


  • must have ability to exercise measured and appropriate judgments in the interest of OSF strategies, often under circumstances in which insufficient information is available and/or the circumstances are highly volatile.


  • mastery of analytical approaches and options, and ability to formulate sound judgments on the basis of analytical work.


  • ability to direct others to effectively gather evidence and research to inform decisions or judgments.


  • Ability to build collaborative relationships in OSF and in the field to further programmatic goals.


  • comprehensive, specialized knowledge in the designated field, including familiarity with current controversies/issues and leading figures/thinking, as well as substantial knowledge of organizational and project management and cross-cultural leadership.


  • ability to function effectively and inclusively in cross-cultural settings.


  • excellent written and spoken communication skills in English are important.



  • Advancing Diversity. Advances diversity by encouraging diversity of viewpoints and discussions, and building workgroups that are broadly inclusive.
  • Expertise. Looks outside OSF to stay relevant and adapts to changes in field(s) of expertise.  Uses external networks to achieve positive outcomes for OSF.
  • Getting the Right Things Done.  Establishes goals, plans for contingencies, readjusts where appropriate, and takes responsibility for delivering outcomes that have a positive impact.  Balances risk/reward, and intellectual curiosity with pragmatism to get things done.
  • Working Well with OSF Colleagues.  Builds collaborative relationships inside OSF through the understanding and development of other’s and own ideas. Uses appropriate means and tone of communication to convey messages, seeks input from others and ensures understanding.
  • Working Well with Others.  Seeks to clarify, understand and exceed expectations of others to make a positive impact.
  • Strategic Thinking.  Considers multiple options to achieve long-range goals, appropriately balancing risk and reward, selecting the best strategies for success.


Qualifications: Experience/Education

  • bachelor’s degree in a relevant field of study or equivalent experience/education; graduate degree preferred
  • 7 -10 years of progressively responsible experience working on issues related to higher education, and in particular in the Middle East; experience working in grant making organizations is preferred.
  • ability to speak Arabic highly desired
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