The conflict in Syria has hindered many students’ access to education and driven those who can afford it to apply overseas. However, Syrian students are one of the many Arab youth who have continuously pursued a higher education in the West. Despite efforts by the Middle East governments to improve the local education environment, many still see the completion of a college degree in the West as the key to a successful career. Degrees offered in the West are also predominantly more valued and more sought after by employers.
The Middle East governments had previously open doors for overseas study opportunities through grants and funds such as the $6 billion King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) which have supported many Saudi students through degree courses in over 30 countries around the world and the Kuwait Excellence Scholarships for Arab students in France. These scholarships are also offered to Arab students with the aim of advancing social and economic development of Arab countries; and also to fill in the skills shortage in fields such as the applied sciences in the MENA region. This serves as means to bridge the gap between the Arab countries and other industrialised and advanced countries. In addition, there has also been an initiative to promote education in the region with the objective of resolving the brain drain situation by enhancing the education landscape locally and encouraging outstanding individuals. to pursue a higher education at home. However, many still prefer completing their education in the West.
While the United States has witnessed a drop in its student enrollment rate from the Middle East, particularly those from the UAE and Saudi Arabia; which can be attributed to President Trump’s controversial travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries. The United Kingdom (UK) has witnessed a significant increase in students from the region. The UK is also a more affordable study destination as opposed to the US and Australia due to the availability of short, flexible courses. The weaker pound due to Brexit negotiations is also one of the contributing factors for foreign nationals to opt for a British education. The presence of diversity in UK universities and cultivation of independence among individuals are also reasons as to why these students prefer an overseas education.
Source: Arab News
Join us in the upcoming QS-MAPLE 2019 from 25-27 February 2019 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as we discuss the topic on “Research in the Middle East and Africa: Overcoming the Barriers”.