The number of students in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) is predicted to continue to increase and reach 13.7 million in the next six years. According to Alpen Capital’s 2014 GCC Education Industry report, there will be many factors that will contribute to the growth of higher education market in the region. However, the report warns that challenges will also be present. Nevertheless, the UAE is pointed as one of the most developed education markets in MENA and Dubai is said to be a top choice for students from the region wishing to get an international-level degree.
This year’s GCC Education Industry report, states that while Saudi Arabia is currently the biggest education market in the Gulf, the United Arab Emirates is the most developed one. In addition, the two countries also said to have well-developed and well-established tertiary and K-12 education segments. Qatar and Oman are the third and fourth on this list, respectively. Also, their growth is expected to continue due to the upcoming reforms in the industry. Bahrain and Kuwait were also found to be developing. However, in comparison to other GCC countries, their growth rate is much slower.
The research also found that, together with Qatar, the UAE is the most preferred study destination for GCC students. That is because of the large number if international schools in the country as well as the simplified visa processes. UAE’s Dubai is also enjoying a huge popularity among Gulf students. In fact, the report informs that the emirate has become even more preferred that the United Kingdom. Only the United States and France are still more popular than Dubai among GCC young minds.
Another trend described in the study is GCC private schools are welcoming more students than public schools. Especially popular were private schools with international curriculums. Again, the United Arab Emirates leads in this category. Only in this Gulf country there are over 430 international schools. However, the business remains relatively unregulated and authorities constantly struggle to improve the quality of education investors deliver at present.
In addition, in the GCC the gap between technology and education is starting to disappear. More and more governments in the region are willing to invest in technology-in-the-classroom solutions.
According to Alpen Capital’s report, the GCC education market will maintain its strong growth level at least by 2020. The main factors behind this tendency are many. However, the key ones include the growing population and particularly the growing expat population in the region. Also, both society and governments have started to realize how important education can be. Last, but not least, investments in this sector have also increased greatly. The report predicts that about $150 billion will be invested in the GCC education market by 2016.
But the region will also have to face various challenges. The biggest of them are the spiking education costs in GCC countries, which is pushing not only students away, but also potential investors. Another problem is the need for an upgrade of the educational systems in the Gulf. Schools in the region have to be more responsive to the global trends in education, as well as to find a way to cope with the quickly rising number of students. The lack of skilled staff is yet another challenge in the Gulf. When such are missing, the quality of education is also suffering.
The research paid special attention to one more issue – the luring power of international education. More and more GCC students were found to prefer to study abroad, because foreign schools and education institutes offers them better prices, great number of choices and valuable experience. Gulf countries need to find a way to make their schools more attractive for students from the region.