Saudi students disappointed by protracted delays in scholarship enrollment
Many Saudi students studying abroad at their own expense have been waiting since early 2015 to receive their scholarships and are now using social media to raise their case with the Ministry of Education.
Ghassan Felemban is a PhD student in Spain. He told Saudi Gazette that he was accepted at the University of Alcala in Madrid, which is one of the universities recommended by the Ministry of Education.
“I couldn’t apply to the scholarship program like other students because I was accepted just after Ramadan and the deadline for the scholarship had already ended,” he said.
Felemban was faced with two choices — either wait till next year or self-finance his studies. He opted for the first, but after contacting the university he was advised that he would only be able to delay the entry for one semester.
“In other words, I would only be allowed to wait until the end of the first semester. If I didn’t accept, then I would have to reapply and go through the entire process once more,” he said.
Felemban went to Ministry of Education seminars for two days and was approved to study at his own expense. After arriving in Madrid and starting his studies, he applied to join the scholarship program via the Safeer system after being advised to do so by a counselor at the Saudi Cultural Mission in Spain.
“Two months later, my request was rejected because I hadn’t completed the number of prescribed credit hours, which is one of the new requirements of the program,” he said, adding that he then completed the required hours and reapplied in June. He has still not received a response.
“I call the cultural mission almost every day to ask. They always respond saying they do not know and that the matter is with the ministry,” he said. “The last time I rang was last week. My supervisor told me to write a summary of my case and that he would send it to the ministry. I am still waiting,” he added.
Computer engineering student Hamza Al-Johani decided to study in the United Arab Emirates because his father died recently and he wanted to be close to his family in the Kingdom. After attending a university in the UAE, he applied to the Ministry of Education, which accepted him and told him that he needed to complete 30 credit hours to secure a scholarship.
Later, the ministry rejected his application saying that the deadline for scholarships to study in Arab countries had passed. Al-Johani says he has received conflicting information. The ministry had told him initially that he was eligible because he began his studies before the new regulation came into effect.
Jafar Ali Al-Hajji is studying English. He said that after being accepted at a university, the Ministry of Education promised to enroll him into a scholarship program as long as he completed four months of English language study. He applied after five months and has still not received a response.
Albaraa Qutob is a Saudi chemical engineering student who transferred to a university in Australia after starting his studies in another country. “The procedure began with the Ministry of Education. You need to ensure that you meet the conditions and requirements of the ministry,” he said, adding that all of these requirements were met and that he attended the necessary seminars before leaving the Kingdom.
“I was promised to be enrolled on to the scholarship program within six months as long as I meet the necessary conditions. There was no mention of the need to complete the 30 credit hours,” he said.
Subsequent to reaching Australia, his application to the scholarship program was rejected several times. “I am disappointed and worried about the future, but I am still optimistic and have hope that I will reach my goal,” he said.
Qutob is now working part-time to pay for his studies. He only needs to complete one semester to reach the required 30 hours, but if the ministry again changes its procedures he will be forced to return to the Kingdom.
“The other option open to him is to apply for an internal scholarship provided by the university or other institutions, which I would have to pay back after graduation. However, it is not easy to get, as there are many obstacles and lots of competition,” he said.
Mahmood Badgel is in his first semester of a MA in public administration. He tried to study in the Kingdom but was not accepted. “I started saving money in order to study abroad. I have applied to many universities in several countries, including the US, and in a short period of time I got admitted at St. Mary’s University of San Antonio, Texas,” he said.
At the ministry’s annual conference for the scholarship program, Badgel was told that as he was paying for his own studies, he would be enrolled in the scholarship program within four to six months.
Badgel left for the US, but had to complete a number of courses as a prerequisite to be considered for the academic program.
“During this period, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman approved the enrollment of every student who was paying for his or her studies and completed nine credit hours into the scholarship program. They also accepted students who were still in English preparatory programs. I wasn’t in those two groups and so the ministry rejected my request,” he said.
Badgel returned to the Kingdom last summer and has taken out loans to fund his studies. However, after returning to the US, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ordered the ministry to enroll students studying at their own expense on to the scholarship program.
Badgel applied once he had completed the required credit hours. He has still not received a response. “Although my age does not meet the requirements of the scholarship, I was rejected for another reason. I have been disappointed by the experience as I spent all my savings and now have loans to pay back,” he said.
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