Institutions should tap more foreign students

MUSCAT, May 15 – The Ministry of Higher Education on Tuesday organised a workshop to study mechanisms to strengthen the capacity of higher education institutions to attract international students, under the auspices of Dr Said bin Hamad al Rubaei, Secretary-General of Education Council, in the presence of education experts and specialists.
Jokha al Shukaili, Director-General of Private Universities and Colleges at the Ministry of Higher Education, said the workshop was part of an effort of educational policy makers in enhancing the educational plans.
She explained that the quality of the academic institutions, services and facilities are undoubtedly important factors to develop an attractive environment for international students. It is an indicator of the ability of these institutions to compete in the regional and international fields.
She added that bid to attract international students is one of the most important and smart strategies to promote educational tourism, stimulate economic movement and maximise the sustainability of resources of funding in the education sector.
Many countries compete to provide attractive environments to raise the presence of international students who are estimated at more than five million, of which more than a million are based in the USA, followed by the United Kingdom. She said the international students in the Sultanate are only 3 per cent of the total student population, according to the latest statistics.
This necessitated helping our institutions to attract foreign students and cash in on the Sultanate’s security and political stability, cultural openness and religious tolerance.
Dr Saif al Shimali, Director of Research and Studies in the ministry, pointed out that international students studying in private higher education institutions in Oman in the academic year 2011-2012 were 500, which gradually increased by 3.7 per cent to 622 in 2016-2017.
The UAE topped the number of international students studying in the Sultanate by 34 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia 12 per cent and Bahrain 9 per cent.
He also referred to the indicators of international students in institutions of higher education according to their specialisations and qualifications and their distribution in private higher education institutions.
Hamad al Azri, Director of the International Students’ Office at Nizwa University, highlighted the most attractive factors in Oman for the international students such as the local academic classification of institutions, the international classifications such as QS, the existence of opportunities for material support by institutions of higher education, international scholarship programmes to study and the attractive scientific research.
He suggested that the Ministry of Higher Education adopt a strategy to market the Sultanate as an educational destination. The ministry should support higher education institutions to provide facilities to attract foreign students. It should also support a project of scholarships for international students, such as Erasmus Mundus and Fulbright. The role of embassies and cultural attachés in the countries should be activated to contribute to the marketing of institutions of higher education.

Mai al Abria