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Jordan aims to further build its international enrolment

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Jordan is emerging as an increasingly important regional study destination in the Middle East
  • Foreign student numbers have roughly doubled since 2011 and the government has set a target to attract 70,000 visiting students by 2020

Jordan is a small country that has always played a big role in the Middle East, in part because of its strategic location at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and Asia. It remains an ally of Western powers and, along with Egypt, is one of only two Arab states to have come to formal peace terms with Israel. As both its geographic and political context suggests, Jordan is relatively open to the world with high social and economic indicators, a skilled workforce, and a robust tourism sector.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that the country has also become an increasingly important regional study destination over the past several years. The number of foreign students enrolled in Jordanian institutions nearly doubled this decade, from 25,000 in 2011 to just over 47,000 in 2016. This amounts to roughly 15% of the 315,000 students enrolled in higher education in the country that year, and the government has laid plans to raise that percentage to 25% of total enrolment by 2020.

In September 2017, the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research established a new directorate focused on promoting Jordan as a study destination and strengthening services for visiting students. Speaking to The Jordan Times earlier this year, Fidaa Tameemi, the ministry’s director of International Student Affairs, said, “Our purpose is to take care of all international students from their arrival to the airport to the moment they go back home,” and indicated that the ministry will also provide support to the students “beyond academic issues”.

Along with studies in Arabic, Jordanian universities have introduced an expanding range of English-taught programmes this decade. Also of note, the ministry’s international education directorate has stepped up its marketing activity within the past year, with new marketing collateral, including expanded web content and video, and the first-ever Study in Jordan education fair in Kuwait. Other student fairs are planned for the coming year and beyond, initially in other Gulf States but with plans to expand to Southeast Asia in 2019.

A promotional video from the Jordan Tourism Board

These initiatives flow from a previously announced government target to build the country’s international enrolment to 70,000 students by 2020. Most recently, Minister of Higher Education Adel Al-Taweesi said that the target would be 75,000, but either way it will represent a near tripling of foreign student numbers within the decade.

In recent media interviews, Minister Al-Taweesi has cited the importance of both economic and cultural impacts of expanded foreign enrolment for Jordanian higher education, noting that, “Foreign students and their families attract more visitors into our country, resulting in higher touristic revenues. When they return to their homelands, they also become ambassadors of Jordan to their people.”

Important sending markets

The ministry is emphasising the quality of Jordanian education in its marketing efforts, along with the safety and security for visiting students and the diverse mix of cultures in the country.

Befitting its position at a major global crossroads, the government reports that students from 107 different countries are currently enrolled in Jordan. Ministry figures diverge somewhat from those reported by UNESCO in terms of country of origin for foreign students in Jordan, but in both cases we see a wide field of European, American, African, and Asian markets represented.

Not surprisingly, a large proportion is accounted for by students from neighbouring territories. Palestine is the single largest sender, and accounts for nearly a quarter of all international enrolment. Iraq and Syria combine for another 30%, and a further 20% of visiting students come from other important regional senders, including Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

As the plans to expand education fairs to Southeast Asia suggest, Jordan is looking further afield to build on this recent enrolment growth, and we are also seeing an expansion of institutional partnerships between Jordanian and foreign universities, particularly those in Europe, in recent years.

Jordan Rowson-Jones, for example, came from the UK to study Arabic through a partner programme with the University of Oxford, and recently explained to The Jordan Times that he made the choice because, “Jordan is such a melting pot of different cultural and religious experiences and backgrounds due to the sheer number of refugees that have made Jordan their home…Considering that one of my academic interests is the Arab-Israeli conflict, [this] is a good place to immerse oneself in the Palestinian viewpoint regarding the conflict.”

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