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UK HE relations with Gulf states changing – UUKi

UUKi argues that UK HEIs are now more involved in transnational education and research collaboration, rather than solely focused on student recruitment.
January 10 2018
2 Min Read

UK higher education institutions are changing their relationships with Gulf nations, according to a new report from Universities UK international. The paper, titled ‘State of the relationship: UK higher education engagement with the GCC’argues that UK HEIs are now more involved in transnational education and research collaboration, whereas the relationships were formerly dominated by student recruitment.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has six members; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. The UK is now ranked in the top five research partners in all of these nations.

“With the exception of students from Saudi Arabia, the majority of GCC students enrolled on programs in the UK are undergraduates”

UUKi notes, through analysis of UNESCO and HESA statistics, along with its own research, that nearly a third of UK higher education institutions are planning to expand the current offerings in the region, be that franchise arrangements or foundation programs.

It is not only institutions investing in the GCC education sector, however.

The UK government-backed Gulf Science, Innovation and Knowledge Economy program is a multimillion pound deal to promote engagement between the UK and the Gulf. It is hoped the scheme will help stoke the relationship between London and the region on science, innovation and higher education.

Growth in HE is also a key tranche of many of the Gulf nations’ own national development projects, such as Saudi Arabia’s “Saudi Vision 2030” and the “New Kuwait” plan.

In the UK, it is hoped that developments such as branch campuses and online learning delivery systems can give UK institutions a foothold in the new economies which the governments of the GCC members states hope will emerge from these long-term plans.

The report’s data analyst, Janet Illieva of Education Insight, said that as GCC states diversify their economies, there will be opportunities for UK institutions’ projects to succeed.

“TNE has enabled the UK higher education sector to engage with international students in new hot spots for education”, she said.

“What’s also interesting is that UK institutions appear to have supported local development agendas by absorbing unmet domestic and regional demand for higher education and through forging research collaborations with local universities, agencies and businesses,” Illieva added.

Historically, the relationship between Britain and the GCC states has been dominated by international student recruitment. Although this relationship is changing, it is still a growth area, according to UUKi.

In fact, the sector has been boosted by further engagement with Gulf region schools.

Yuzra Mouzughi, interim vice-chancellor of Muscat University in the Omani capital, explained why the format of this relationship is changing.

“We’re a young university – established in 2016…with a clear vision for high-quality education. As such, our partners Cranfield University and Aston University are an ideal fit.”

“Our joint degrees combine academic rigour with the world of work and a strong commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. Local industry has enthusiastically welcomed the opportunity to work with internationally recognised UK universities on their home turf,” Mouzughi added.

As pointed out by Illieva, the growth of TNE in the Gulf region does not simply aid the two nations directly involved. Indeed, one reason for the uptick in UK TNE engagement is the wider benefits for the whole Middle East – North Africa region.

“Interestingly, countries with a strong TNE in the GCC are emerging as hot spots for international students – the UAE is an excellent example. It is now attracting more international students from the MENA region than the UK and Australia,” Illieva told The PIE News

“I suspect UK TNE in the country has a significant role to play in this development.

“As such, one can argue that the UK is not just catering to the specific GCC countries education needs but the wider MENA region.”

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