Universities in Bahrain are looking to significantly boost interest from prospective international students through accreditation from the British Accreditation Council (BAC).

Despite having an area of just 741 square km, Bahrain is home to a number of institutions that welcome students from overseas. There are four main public universities, including Arabian Gulf University, Bahrain Polytechnic, College of Health and Sciences and the University of Bahrain.

Alongside these there are a number of private institutions, including Ahlia University, Arab Open University, Gulf University and the Royal University for Women. These universities are also open to international student enrolments.

Most degree programmes in Bahrain will last three to four years, and although the Kingdom is commonly perceived as the most liberal country in the Arabic world, Bahraini universities remain segregated by gender.

Despite the fact that men and women must enrol at separate universities, cross the country, these institutions experience a much higher amount of female applicants compared to male.

For example, 63 percent of students who enter the University of Bahrain, the largest public university in the region, are female. Women also count for 57 percent of Saudi Arabia’s university graduates, 67 percent of Kuwait’s graduates, and 54 percent of graduates from Qatar, according to a BoozCo report.

Many young male Bahrainis do not even consider higher education because of the long-running tradition to leave school and start a career. Walid Zabari, a professor at Arabian Gulf University is studying the phenomenon of young people who drop out of education. He says: “It’s the community culture.

“Many of the male students prefer to start work early to feel independent,” he said, before adding that most men tend to marry before the age of thirty, so they must find a job in order to support their future family.”

Currently, there are no figures regarding the impact of the shortage of male Bahraini graduates on either the economy or the young men’s careers, but the deficit does leave room for abundant female opportunity.

Fatima Khalil, an accounting graduate now working for a private company, says “Without the support of my family, I would not have been able to complete the university.

“My father did not finish his university study as he went to work early, but he was interested in enrolling me at university.”

Now that universities in Bahrain are looking to advance their international activities through accreditation from the BAC, the plunge in male graduates could be boosted by male students from overseas.

Most subjects at Bahraini universities are taught in both Arabic and English, an attractive element for many international students. Another major pulling factor is the cost of tuition, which is extremely low compared to other universities. International students can expect to pay around 2,500BHD -that’s £3,900- per semester.

As well as inspecting both public and private institutions, plans are now in place for the BAC to work with Bahrain’s Higher Education Council to develop documentation for accreditation, train university staff to deliver top-class lectures and seminars, and run numerous university workshops.

The agreement was signed by Paul Fear, Chief Executive of the BAC, and Majed Bin Al Noaimi, Education Minister for the Kingdom of Bahrain.

There are currently 14 countries around the world that the BAC attributes, but the organisation has never before devised and administered an inspection regime to run across an entire nation.

Mr Fear says: “The contract represents a huge vote of confidence in the rigour of BAC accreditation procedures and reflects the high regard for the UK’s reputation for integrity and transparency in education.

“This contract will help to support the HEC in raising standards in higher education and will give confidence to both national and international students considering studying in the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

Image via Shutterstock.

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