A special conference on scholarships from the Middle East held in London, UK, last week focused on opportunities for education providers and agents in the myriad of government and private sector funding schemes in the region.
The first-ever Gulf Education Scholarship Programme Meeting, a spin off from the annual Gulf Education Conference, welcomed around 250 delegates including government officials, scholarship managers, university staff, specialist English language and pathway providers, and agents for scheduled business meetings. In an interview with StudyTravel (ST) Magazine, Abdlekhalig Mohamed, Managing Director of organisers Gulf Education, said the inspiration for the event came from the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme (Kasp) in Saudi Arabia, which he said had changed the scholarship landscape by fully integrating international education funding opportunities with the needs of government and private employers. “This was a positive change by bringing commitment to changing the working environment rather than depending on expats.”
Abdlekhalig said the range of funding available was increasingly diverse. “Things have changed and different ministries and companies have scholarships.” He added that in most countries in the Gulf region, the number of funded places was increasing each year, despite economic conditions. He commented that the scholarship schemes would in turn generate more scholarships as private industry became more involved, and would generally stimulate more interest in international education, as well as intraregional study abroad, particularly in the UAE. Discussing the role of agents in scholarship schemes, Abdelkhalig said, “They are very much part of the game. Someone has to do the important work and guide students through the difficult things. Ministries and cultural attaches cannot do this. Somebody has to guide students to choose the correct course and help visa applications.”
Carl Johan Wresting, Vice President of Global Business Development & Partnerships at EF Education First, told ST Magazine the special scholarship event was one of the best examples of demand meeting supply in the industry. EF offered a range of educational products for governments, companies and private students in the Middle East region, he said, including blended learning, face-to-face tuition, scalable cloud-based solutions, text book creation and teacher training, as well as numerous study abroad options.
Commenting on the outlook for scholarship funding, Carl said, “With the current economic situation, there is pressure on costs, but education is a priority for governments in the region.” He added that he foresaw more focus on measurements of outcomes, and said that EF’s English Proficiency Index (EPI), which recently published a fifth edition, was a great starting point for discussions with government bodies about raising language proficiency levels. Education Malaysia was a major sponsor of the Gulf Education event, and brought a large delegation of Malaysian universities to showcase international education opportunities in the country.
Anita Daud Charles, Head of Communications and Branding at Education Malaysia, told ST Magazine there were 300 universities in the country accredited to accept international students and that five of these were ranked within the top 300 globally. She commented that Malaysia was the 12th most popular higher education international education destination, according to Unesco data, and that numbers were increasing annually, with large cohorts coming from China, Indonesia, South Asian countries and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Source: Study Travel Magazine