OBG talks to Rawya Saud Al Busaidi, Minister of Higher Education

Rawya Saud Al Busaidi, Minister of Higher Education

Interview: Rawya Saud Al Busaidi

What strategy has been developed to ensure international standards and quality assurance within Oman’s higher education sector?

RAWYA SAUD AL BUSAIDI: Currently, all private higher education institutions (HEIs) in Oman are required to enter into agreements with reputed international HEIs for the purpose of quality assurance and monitoring. These agreements typically include curriculum development at an international standard. The Oman Academic Accreditation Authority (OAAA), inaugurated in 2001, has been a salient agency regulating this field. The OAAA sets international standards for both institutions and programmes, and conducts regular quality audits of all Oman’s HEIs. A further key initiative has been the establishment of the Oman Quality Network in Higher Education, a voluntary alliance of members of private HEIs, set up with the aim of promoting and sharing best practice in quality assurance for higher education. The ministry has also founded its own quality department (on course to become a directorate general) to monitor quality in the HEIs that it supervises. One available tool of this body is to withhold the provision of scholarships for underperforming private HEIs until they improve their standards. Consideration is also being given to the creation of a comprehensive umbrella law to regulate the terms and conditions for the establishment and operation of private HEIs, including quality assurance agreements with international partners. The new law would rationalise existing regulations and offer a complete guide to private higher education in Oman.

How is the ministry helping to foster links between higher education and industry to encourage new graduates into the workforce?

AL BUSAIDI: The Colleges of Applied Sciences (CAS) has established several programmes and advisory committees with representation from business and industry. This balanced input into curriculum development results in increased skills relevance. It has also secured work placements for students in the higher years as well as job placements for graduates. Additional measures include job fairs to connect students graduating from the CAS with potential employers, as well as career guidance centres established at all CAS sites. A number of specialised private HEIs have been created to link directly with the job market. These include, among others, the Oman Tourism College, the International Maritime College of Oman, the Oman Dental College, the Oman Medical College, Bayan College (journalism), the Middle East College of Information Technology, the International College of Engineering & Management, and the Scientific College of Design.

What steps are being taken to incentivise and attract more international students and global faculty to Oman’s colleges and universities?

AL BUSAIDI: In terms of faculty, remuneration packages need to be more competitive, given we are in a region where outstanding faculty are already present.

Historically, Oman has offered lower salaries and fewer benefits, relying on more attractive lifestyle factors.

Recruiting quality faculty necessitates superior research facilities and a critical mass of other high-standard faculty. It also depends on quality of life, and Oman is steadily gaining prominence in this regard through improved social infrastructure development.

We have begun to attract international students through programmes for Arabic language studies.

Both the German University of Technology in Oman and the International College of Engineering & Management (ICEM) have proven successful in registering higher numbers of international students.

However, the number of overseas students eligible for government HEIs is limited. The University of Oman, although state-owned, upon inception intends to recruit international students, especially for graduate studies, and open an international school on campus for children of expatriate staff and local children. In addition, the school is seen as being a future source of high-quality students for the university.

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The Report: Oman 2013

Education & Health chapter from The Report: Oman 2013

Cover of The Report: Oman 2013

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