Oman-Oxford Partnership Means a New University on the Horizon
Sultan Qaboos University in Oman (Credit: Wikipedia)
Oxford University’s Isis Innovation will partner with a group of Omani businessmen to develop a new private, not-for-profit university in Muscat, slated to open in 2016.
Dr. Juma bin Ali al-Juma, chairperson of the Founders’ Committee, said “The vision for Muscat University is to create a center of excellence, where academic achievement directly contributes to the development of an entrepreneurial culture in Oman and a positive force for the expansion of the private sector.”
Muscat University is slated to open its academic programs by 2016, and will begin accepting students for programs in 2017.
Compared to its neighbors, Oman’s experience in providing higher education to its citizens is relatively new in its foundations. The country’s first university, Sultan Qaboos University, was not established until 1986. In 2001, Oman opened the doors of its first private university, Sohar University, following a decree issued by Sultan Qaboos in 1999, which legalized private higher education. The decree was part of a reform period of higher education in Oman initiated by Sultan Qaboos in an effort to develop the country’s work force internally without having to export students to other universities in the region.
Yet, while the number of institutions for higher education in Oman has increased over the years, along with the output of students with degrees, like other countries in the region Oman has had to cope with a lack of employment opportunities for its educated population.
With concerns about a potential future decline in oil revenue, Oman’s ability to continue funding higher education in the country may dwindle. In 1995, Oman’s Vision 2020 was developed to diversify the economy beyond the oil sector. As a result, the country has pushed for investors and institutions abroad to sponsor education in the country.
Despite the challenges facing higher education in Oman, a 2013 UN Human Development Report positioned the country at 84 out of 187 countries, outranking nearby countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. One of the reason’s attributed to Oman’s success in human development is its investment in education development. As the government has increased expenditures on higher education, the number of students enrolled in higher education programs has also increased.