Higher Education in Oman

The Omani higher education system is relatively young, as the first public university in Oman, Sultan Qaboos University was founded in 1986. Prior to the establishment of SQU, the government sent some students to pursue higher education studies in neighboring Arab countries like UAE, Kuwait, Jordan and Egypt. Also some students were awarded scholarships to study in the UK and America.

SQU is self-administered and has nine colleges. The colleges of Arts and Social Sciences, Commerce and Economics, Education, Law, and Nursing offer bachelor's and some master's degrees. Starting from September 2008, SQU began introducing PhD studies in its colleges of Agriculture and Marine Sciences, Medicine and Health Sciences, Engineering, and Science. A bachelor's degree takes about five years, as the first is spent studying English, and the second studying relevant science subjects; the last three years are dedicated to core degree units. A medicine degree takes seven years. The public university is normally visited by Omanis only. Expatriates go - as a general rule - to private universities or study abroad.

Oman's Ministry of Higher Education administers the six Colleges of Applied Sciences. These were formerly colleges of education, but in 2005 Royal Decree No. 62/2007 was issued to transform them to better cater to the current labor market in fields such as international business administration, communication, design, engineering, and IT. They are located in Ibri, Nizwa, Salalah, Sohar, Sur, and Rustaq. The College of Applied Sciences in Rustaq is the only one that still offers an education degree. The Ministry also has a department that sanctions private colleges and universities.

Oman's Ministry of Manpower operates the Higher College of Technology in Muscat and six colleges of technology in Al-Mussana, Ibra, Ibri, Nizwa, Salalah, and Shinas. The Ministry of Health runs a number of health institutes to prepare assisting medical staff like nurses, paramedics and pharmacists. The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs sanctions the College of Sharia Sciences. The Central Bank of Oman sanctions the College of Banking and Financial Studies.

As the number of students finishing secondary school goes up each year (44,000 were expected to finish in 2008), SQU and other public colleges have become unable to cope with the demand. Since private colleges were very limited in the mid nineties, more and more students sought higher education in countries like the UAE, Jordan and Egypt. The government became aware of the trend and decided to encourage the private sector in Oman to form universities and colleges. The first private college was established in 1994. Since this date, a number of private colleges and universities have been started in Oman. Most of them focus on popular studies such as business administration and computer sciences. They are usually affiliated with European, Australian or American institutions. The language of instruction is mainly English. A'Sharqiya University, in Ibra, opened its doors in the fall of 2010.

In the year 2003, Oman's Ministry of Higher Education approved the merger of five private run colleges in order to form the Muscat University. However, the plan to merge Fire Safety Engineering College, Majan College, Modern College of Business & Science, Middle East College and Mazoon College for Management and Applied Sciences failed (source: Oman Observer 18.7.2005). Currently, there is some talk that the plan to form Muscat University may be revived.

As part of the eOman initiative, applications for 2006/2007 higher education (public and private) places have been merged under one unified online system (Higher Education Admissions Center). Each higher education institute publishes the minimum entry requirement for each of its degrees and the student selects his or her choices in order of preference. When the Ministry of Education publishes secondary school results in mid July, these results are fed automatically into the system and offers are made in early August. Prior to the new system, the students had to submit their papers to the different institutes by themselves after the publication of results. The process was very inconvenient for the students and the admission departments as there was very little time and students had to travel a lot.