This paper uses a model of governance in higher education, called the political model, that explains the role of universities as agencies of control and socialization, with a resulting repercussion on the quality of education. It compares this model with common models such as the academic, Napoleonic, market-oriented and managerial. It undertakes a review of ten published cases studies, each dealing with the oldest public universities in ten Arab countries, using a historical approach, from their inception until 2016. Among the ten public universities, nine fall into the category of the political model, while the tenth represents the Napoleonic model. The discussion opens the field for further research.

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