Higher Education Options in the Gulf

Higher Education Options in the Gulf

A worried face looks up towards the construction site in a ministry building and tries hard to envision the potential of the solar power replacing the depleting oil sources. This face belongs to a government minister addressing the hopeful crowd. “We are not as rich as the world thinks we are”, she says.

Echoing the crowd’s emotion, she is not only worried about the prospect of oil resources running out, but also by the lack of a sufficient higher education. As the population grows, so does the demand for jobs. And this demand can only be sufficed if higher education is accounted for.

With the establishment of the Ministry of Education in 1970, the government took up the reins and brought up higher education to the standards required. Education began to move forward with an exceptional pace. Kuwait was one of the first Gulf states to strike oil and boasts of the region’s oldest university. The year 1966 saw the establishment of the Kuwait University, which is now sprawled over 5 campuses in Kuwait city with a total of 18000 students.

Higher education and globalization

With the rising globalization stepping into the education sector, one of the options that students look into for higher education is, studying abroad. But the Gulf has taken a bold step in curbing loss of their youth. They brought the abroad home!

The Middle east comprises nearly 60 transnational institutes and among these, over 80% are located in the Persian Gulf. Almost half of the number of these institutes are affiliated to universities of the United States.

  • Institutes like Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha and Manchester Business School in Dubai have set up branch campuses in the middle-east which offer specialized degrees in academic or professional fields of study.
  • Institutes in affiliation or consultation to foreign institutes have been established in the Gulf to help students experience a foreign style education. Two of such institutes are American University in Cairo or the recently opened American University of Sharjah.
  • Transnational or offshore programs do not set up camp in other countries, what they do is, partner with an institute of the host country and include their educational programs in those of the host institute. For example, say, American business curriculum in a certain university in Qatar.
  • The New York university opened a replica campus in Abu Dhabi which grants full-scale degrees. The research university also comes with liberal arts and Science college.

This has resulted in a surge of students coming in from other countries to achieve a higher education degree in the Gulf. It has been predicted that an overwhelming 160 million new students worldwide will enter the higher education landscape of the Gulf in the next 30 years. This number mostly comprises students from India, China and South-East Asia.

E-learning, distance and online education in the Gulf

The middle-east has embraced modern methods of education like never before. A survey conducted in the Gulf revealed that 69.9% of the respondents agreed to online education having created quite a positive wave in the education scenario. As many as 44.6% of the respondents have pursued an online program.

The Gulf countries are aiming big with their online, e-learning and distance education schemes. Many universities are sprouting up to fulfill the rising demands of the progressive education requirement for the modern job market. Government intends to take necessary steps to promote online education for students in the Gulf by validating online universities offering online programs in the region.

Resolution 21

A new law was issued by Dubai’s executive council concerning higher education based in Dubai, which has awarded Knowledge and Human Resource Development (KHDA) the power to certify all academic awards issued by educational institute’s in the emirate’s free zone. This law has been named the Resolution 21. The degrees awarded by such institutes in the free zone are now recognized by all private and public sector companies. This has skyrocketed the higher education scenario in the Emirates. Dubai free zone now plays host to several international branch campuses across Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV), DIAC, Dubai international Financial Center and Healthcare City.

An 11% growth in students enrollment was seen in the higher education sector last year, 45% of which were female enrollments and the rest 55% were male. Therefore, women education has gained momentum considerably.

A bachelor in Business has been found to be a rage in the Gulf which has been due to an overwhelming demand of such graduates in the job market. While the Bachelor degree, the Doctorate degree has sunk deep. Only 0.1% of doctorate degrees were awarded among graduates. According to Abdullah Mohammad Al Shamsi, Vice-Chancellor of British University in Dubai, “The reason for this lack in doctorate degrees is mainly because their was no need for it the past, we were focused on bachelors degree and masters degrees. However as higher education institutes grow there will be an automatic need for it and this might be a problem.”

Numerous steps are still being taken to develop the higher education scenario of the Gulf, so that the youth can meet the high demands of the competitive job market.


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