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Libya scholarships to send 40,000 abroad

Libya’s newly formed legislative body, the General National Congress (GNC) has proposed allocating LD 3.28 billion (US$2.57 billion) to send 40,000 Libyans abroad to study English and gain technical training.

Funding will support 31,000 English language students and 10,000 students and faculty at vocational and HEIs abroad

Funding will support 10,000 students and faculty at vocational and higher education institutions abroad. In a press conference last week, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Bashir Echtewi, confirmed that 5,692 students and 2,004 faculty who already hold Masters degrees will be sent abroad. A remaining 3,616 “top students” will go to foreign universities to complete their studies.

Speaking with the Libya Herald, GNC member Abdulmonem Alyaser confirmed that the government is aiming to improve security in the country by increasing job opportunities through professional and English language training.

“If we want to put the security train on the right track, we must find fundamental and strategic solutions to the problem of unemployment,” he said. “Unemployment is a problem that Libya has been suffering from for years and a problem that was one of the main drivers of the revolution.”

“In order to make a measurable impact to resolve the unemployment and security problem, Libya must invest in the education-abroad programme”

An additional 31,000 students will be supported to complete one year of English language training abroad. Alyaser said the aim is for students to gain a high enough TOFEL or IELTS for acceptance into a foreign university.

The allocated money is a huge increase from the current budget of LD 1 billion now supporting 12,500 students studying abroad, the majority of whom left before the civil war began in February 2011.

Initially, funding recipients were to be chosen only from the Warriors Affairs Commission, a government-backed body founded to give educational opportunities to individuals who fought in the war. However, after public criticism, the GNC expanded the initiative to include women and and handicapped people.

Due to the overwhelming amount of applications, the government has asked state institutions to nominate students and staff who will receive the support to study at foreign vocational and higher education institutions.

The allocated money is a huge increase from the current budget of LD 1 billion

Supporting studies abroad is only part of the GNC’s efforts to improve unemployment which the Ministry of Labour says has reached 340,000 people.  GNC has also proposed LD 7 billion to fund small and medium enterprises and large-sized joint venture projects on solar power, cement, steel, agriculture and tourism.

“I believe that in order to make a measurable impact to resolve the unemployment and security problem, Libya must invest in the education-abroad program, the large-scale joint venture projects and an SME program”, Alyaser said.

The state of higher education in Libya has received harsh criticism since the revolution for overcrowding and poor teaching standards. The decision to send students abroad hasn’t been well accepted by everyone. Many see it as a lost opportunity to invest in building local colleges and institutions providing more long-term benefits to the country.

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