The Sultanate of Oman is committed to establishing wider access to quality higher education to help to drive forward national social and economic growth.
The Sultanate has seen a rapid expansion of the higher education system over the last 18 years. Only one private college existed in the country in 1995, but a further 18 colleges have been added to the educational system since then. Together with state-funded institutions, total enrolment in higher education within the country was over 81,000 students for the academic year 2010/2011, equating the about 29% of the 18-24 age cohort.
State-owned higher education institutions still provide the majority of seats, soon to be bolstered by the establishment of a new university for science and technology, Oman University.Dr Rawiyah Al Busaidiyah, Minister of Higher Education
said: “This very exciting project represents another milestone in the history of higher education in the Sultanate. Oman University is expected to open its doors in 2016 and, over the succeeding decade, to enrol 15,000 students.
One of the major challenges facing many of the new tertiary educational institutions in Oman is funding. Securing a world-class learning establishment can be expensive, particularly if locals are to be enticed to study at home rather than taking places in major universities abroad. The government recognises this as a potential problem and has injected a “one-time endowment” of some $44 million to qualifying universities.
Partnerships with national and international companies are another funding model that is being considered. The Oman Tourism College and the International Maritime college of Oman are both government-owned institutions with partnerships with the private sector. This model is proving successful, with courses at those universities meeting current demands within the tourism and maritime industries.
As the educational system within Oman matures, so too will the donor culture. The government must ensure that quality is injected into the system, not only to secure top-class outputs but also to encourage and attract funding from external sources.
Additional spaces added to the education system, together with wider access for those who wish to study at a higher level, will help to ensure Oman is at the forefront of science, technology and other subjects of national interest.