Muscat: 400 Omani students were provided scholarships in 2021 to pursue their higher education overseas, down from 750 last year, and 1,500 in 2019.
This is because efforts were made to improve the quality of education in Oman that is provided to students.
“This reduction was not down to material challenges, but because arrangements were made for more students to take up internal scholarships,” said Hamad bin Khalfan Al Harthi, the Assistant Director General of Scholarships at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
“These were issued as part of our efforts to improve the quality of local higher education institutions,” he added, speaking to Al Shabiba, the Arabic publication of the Times of Oman.
“We have also expanded the number of programmes for which internal scholarships are available, from three to five. On the other hand, the cost of a foreign scholarship varies between students, on the basis of their specialisation, university, and country of choice.”
About 805 partially and fully-funded scholarships have been provided by the private sector to students pursuing bachelors’ degrees. Students who wish to apply for scholarships from the ministry must secure at least 90 per cent marks in their exams, alongside other conditions listed by the government.
“While there is no change in the criteria for medical specialisations, Australia and New Zealand are no longer considered viable destinations in this category,” said Al Harthi. “Among other academic courses, there is no change to our recognition of countries that offer them, such as the US, UK, Malaysia, and Australia.”
The Assistant DG also recommended that more has to be done for local universities so that they can reach the level of their international counterparts.
“Many universities abroad were established hundreds of years ago, and their international rating depends on their research facilities and other criteria,” he explained.
“We have to support local organisations by encouraging our students to enroll with them, and by increasing the number of internal scholarships provided to those who attend these institutions.”
Adding to this, Nasser bin Rashid Al Abri, the Vice Chairman of the Education and Research Committee at the Majlis Al Shura, explained that introducing more areas of specialisation and improving the quality of education within the country would reduce the amount of money spent on foreign scholarships awarded to students.
“The amount spent by the ministry towards overseas funding could reach OMR100,000 per student,” he said.
“It is therefore high time to widen the doors of higher education in our country. There are also about 23,000 students who stop studying after securing their general education diplomas. “They should be given the chance to continue higher education, if they score 60 percent or more in their exams,” he added.
Al Abri went on to say that the Majlis Al Shura is in close contact with the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, and Innovation, to understand the developments taking place in education. These include discussions over the numbers of foreign scholarships issued, over which we aim to reach a common understanding.
“If there is a need to increase the number of grants issued, because students require them, we will communicate this to the ministry,” said Al Abri.