WENR, October 2012: Middle East


Collapse of Rial Renders A Foreign Education Unaffordable

Iranian students looking to study abroad, or already doing so, are watching helplessly as Western sanctions and the abolition of a government policy that helped students meet their costs, have made a foreign degree so expensive as to be nearly impossible. The Iranian currency lost one-third of its value compared to the dollar in just 10 days this fall

Approximately 35,000 Iranian students are currently studying abroad this year, according to government figures, providing the economy with important skills and maintaining a link between the country and the rest of the world as it becomes increasingly isolated internationally.

Places at Iran’s top public universities, determined by a national entrance exam, are extremely competitive and lucrative fields such as medicine are difficult to get into. Studying abroad for those whose families can afford it can be a different avenue to earning a prestigious degree, putting students in line for the best jobs when they return home. But the Iranian government, moving the economy onto an austerity footing in the face of sanctions, appears increasingly to view foreign study as a luxury that can be sacrificed, reports Reuters.

In a move to preserve its foreign exchange reserves, the government announced in September that most students abroad would no longer be able to buy dollars at a subsidized government “reference” rate of 12,260 rials. That forced many to seek hard currency in the open market, where it costs about 34,000 rials to buy a dollar.

Reuters [1]
October 17, 2012


University Entrance Exam to Include Writing

The psychometric test used by Israeli universities to admit students has for the first time asked students to write a short composition. Educators said that they wanted a writing sample to reflect the role of writing in the university curriculum, and many students who took the test said that they were pleased to have the chance to demonstrate their composition skills.

Haaretz [2]
September 25, 2012


Canadian Delegation of 20 Universities Visits Kuwait on Recruiting Tour

Representatives from 23 leading Canadian universities and colleges visited Kuwait in October to meet with students, parents and other members of the education community to provide information about educational opportunities in Canada.

Officials from the colleges and from the Canadian mission in Kuwait promoted Canada as a safe and welcoming environment with high quality institutions and affordable tuition fees. They also pointed to attractive work-study opportunities and regulations, in addition to flexible post-graduation employment and immigration rules, and attractive scholarship programs.

Arab Times [3]
October 4, 2012


Plans for a Second Public University and Multi-Campus Science Hub

The government of Oman has plans to establish a second public university in an effort to expand access and choice. The new university is to be built in what is being described as ‘a city of science and technology,’ that will also be home to range of other education and research facilities, and branches of foreign universities, according to current plans.

Currently, Oman’s research base is very limited with very slow improvement in research and development activity, according to a 2012 report [4] written for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and titled Entrepreneurship in Oman: A snapshot of the main challenges.

The new research-based university for science and technology, which has been named Oman University, is being established as a means of tackling the country’s poor research performance, offering programs directly linked to development plans and national projects. According to current plans, the university will have a goal of enrolling more than 1,400 students annually.

Currently, Sultan Qaboos University [5] is the country’s only public university. There are also seven private universities. The German University of Technology in Oman, established in collaboration with RWTH Aachen University [6], is the only German university on the Arabian Peninsula.

University World News [7]
September 24, 2012

Saudi Arabia

Government Refocuses on Education

The Saudi government has recommitted to the future of higher education in the Kingdom through a 25-year strategic plan designed to develop and expand higher education in the country.

The plan, the first phase of which is already underway, calls for the establishment of new universities and colleges as the nation seeks to build its skilled human resource base. The Ministry of Higher Education has already signed a number of development projects worth SR7 billion ($1.9 billion) and it is also working to increase capacity in existing colleges and universities. Currently, institutions of higher education in the country have the capacity to teach 300,000 students. The ministry is also working on establishing regional universities to ease the pressure on universities in major cities.

The King Abdullah Scholarship Program [8] has seen over 140,000 Saudi students go abroad for higher education in over 26 countries, since it first began offering funding in 2005. It is the graduates from these programs that will help staff the expansion of higher education in Saudi Arabia, the government hopes. The Kingdom also provides scholarships to Saudi students domestically and nearly 50 percent of Saudis studying in private colleges and universities receive government aid.

– Saudi Gazette
September 23, 2012

United Arab Emirates

Dubai Academic City Hosts No New Universities, But Plenty of New Programs

The number of foreign universities opening up in Dubai’s education free zones has slowed down, and no new universities have opened up in Dubai International Academic City [9] (DIAC) this year, even as demand for higher education is on the increase, reports the Khaleej Times.

Some 20,000 students are enrolled in programs at the multi-institution Dubai International Academic City, and officials there are predicting increased demand in the coming years, especially from students in the Middle East region.

Since 2006, only 17 new universities have been accepted into DIAC from more than 178 applications, according to officials there, who state that they are looking to attract universities that offer unique programs meeting the needs of the labor market as a driver for economic growth. The campus currently offers more than 400 programs.

Khaleej Times [10]
September 24, 2012