(MENAFN - Arab News) Saudi students who pay for their studies abroad will be included in the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, a move that will lift the financial burden from many middle-income families.
This follows an announcement by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah announced on Wednesday.
Mohammad Al-Hizan, spokesman for the Ministry of Higher Education, said there are around 10,000 to 12,000 Saudis paying for their studies abroad. He added that 109,000 Saudis are studying abroad on the flagship scholarship program.
Al-Hizan said that conditions to enroll in the program remain the same and that students need to be enrolled in an approved course at an approved university or institute.
"The mistake that many students make is that they do not understand that the specialties listed have sub-specialties. For example, business administration also includes marketing, finance etc," said Al-Hizan, adding that some students might withdraw from applying thinking they do not meet the requirements. In 2010, King Abdullah issued a directive to include all Saudi students at educational institutes in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand to be brought under the program. The Ministry for Higher Education, however, made it clear at the time that some students do not meet the requirement to join the program.
Commenting on the differences between the two situations, he said there is flexibility in accepting students applying at Saudi Councils abroad. This involves giving them six months to rectify their situations, either by switching to an approved university and/or changing their course to a recommended one.
Mosa'd, 23, is studying business administration at his own expense at a neighboring Arab country. He has unsuccessfully applied four times to join the scholarship program. "I have high GPR, which is a requirement for the admission in the scholarship. I have also spent two years and covered the necessary hours required for students before requesting to join from abroad. I was still not accepted," he said.
Al-Hizan said the two conditions requiring certain hours and high GPR are not required in this last royal order.
He added that some errors might occur when processing applications, as there are thousands of students from around the world applying.
"In the US, for example, there are 45,000 students and each one believes that his issue is a priority," said Al-Hizan, adding that it is for this reason that he is working on establishing a call center that would facilitate easier communication for students abroad and provide them with 24-hour service. Al-Hizan said applicants should understand the scholarship's requirements beforehand, adding that many students opt for courses in subjects that are not needed in the job market and then want to be hired as soon as they return to the Kingdom.
"The annual educational exhibition that the ministry organizes should help students determine what they want," said Al-Hizan, adding that there are over 400 local and international and government and private institutes that exhibit at the event.
By Walaa Hawari