Muscat: Oman will not reduce the number of internal or external scholarships due to the slide of the oil prices, said Dr. Rawya bint Saud Al Buasidi, Minister of Higher Education on Thursday.
“The Supreme Council for Planning has approved all the internal and external scholarships for the Ninth Five Year Plan (2016-2020),” said Al Busaidi. That came after the elected Shura Council hosted the Minister of Higher Education for two days, Wednesday and Thursday, to discuss the strategies and five-year plans, colleges of applied sciences, private higher education, and student accommodation at institutions belonging to her ministry.
Some Shura members presented a number of proposals that include cancelling the diploma certificate with scholarship system, approving admission tests to universities and colleges, providing soft loans for students and exempting exceptional students from study fees. The Shura members also called on the minister to simplify education procedures for people with special needs, and review experiences of some countries especially in the majors that are relevant to certain types of disabilities.
The minster said that the government provides 9,638 internal and external scholarships every year. The Ministry of Higher Education allocated 50 internal scholarships and 50 external scholarships in 2014 for special needs people, she said.
Al Busaidi explained that higher education students lacked a number of skills. Thirty one per cent lacked communication skills, 37 per cent creativity, and 38 per cent the ability to solve problems.
Al Busaidi pointed out that more than 10,000 students in the higher education institutions dropped out.
Khalid Al Farei, the head of the Education Committee at the Shura Council and a member representing Mudhaibi province, said that the Ministry of Higher Education’s statement was long but did not detail the number of higher education graduates, the opportunities available for them and the increase in the number of unemployed.
The minister admitted that there were too many unemployed graduates in all disciplines.
She said the ministry planned to obtain data from the labour market and relevant institutions to gauge the market requirements.
Khalid Al Mawali, chairman of the Shura Council, said that while the government spent millions of rials on higher education there was a need to increase the number of external scholarships.
The 2016 budget projects 3.3 billion Omani rials (Dh31.47 billion) in deficit spending for the year, which. The government aims to reduce it by improving the non-oil revenues as well as cutting expenditures. Oman posted a budget deficit of 4.5 billion rials in 2015, as revenues declined by more than 50 per cent.
Oman has been cutting state subsidies and introducing other austerity measures to curb a budget deficit of 4.02b rials in the first seven months of 2016, up from a deficit of 2.39b rials the previous year. The Ministry of Finance has issued 20 circulars so far this year aimed at controlling spending.