August deadline set for foreign study funding applications

Students currently pursuing or looking to study higher education at foreign institutions have been given a deadline of August 7 this year to apply for funding from an additional government-backed Rf100 million student loan programme.

Funding packages ranging between Rf100,000 and Rf300,000 are reportedly set to be made available to students participating in various types of study ranging from foundation courses to PHD.  After studying abroad, participants  are then expected to begin paying back their loans to the state six months after completion of their course and within a ten-year period, according to newspaper Haveeru.

The foreign study loans are expected to be delivered specifically to Bank of Maldives (BML) accounts assigned to each individual student participating in the foreign loan scheme during August.  The student loan system for Maldivians abroad follows on from the launch of a similar domestic study programme announced by the government early last month.

The funding switch has raised concerns among some students and opposition figures, who claim that not enough is being done by government to support and prepare young people for the challenges of a more diverse Maldives job market.  Opposition MPs in particular have been critical that the funding, like the entire education system had not been sufficiently updated from the 1980s to meet the demand for the current jobs market in terms of skills.

Haveeru reported that despite concerns by some Male’-based students regarding continued delays to receiving their individual loan payments, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between BML and the Finance Ministry was expected to come into place today to ensure loan payments could be made within a 48 hours period.

The student loan programme is a new intiative being taken up by the government to replace the previous “pocket money” grant scheme that supplied limited study funding free of charge.

The government claimed  last month that an initial Rf50 million loan programme for domestic students represented attempts to support a larger number of local people in further education.

Aminath Ali, Deputy Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports, previously told Minivan News that she accepted that a number of students had concerns about the change towards providing loans instead of the free grants previously offered.  However, the minister claimed the new system was in place to try to ensure that both the country and citizens could afford further education on a more sustainable basis in the long-term.

“Under the current budget we cannot provide free learning and funding for students at higher education institutions.  The [student loans] are similar to mechanisms in place in countries all over the world,” she said.  “Say a student has a total loan amount of Rf24,000 over their studies, they will have to pay back this amount and a five percent administration charge to cover the role of their bank over an agreed period of time.”