Kuwait University’s decision to cut down on student admissions for the new academic year in response to reduced government support has intensified controversy about how to accommodate all students eligible for higher education.
In accordance with the decision of the University Council held in June, Kuwait University admitted only 8,071 students out of about 12,500 Kuwaiti students who meet the admission requirements and have applied for admission to the university’s colleges in the coming academic year.
Kuwait University, the tiny Gulf state’s only public university, relies on official government support from the general budget. Some observers have noted that the budget cut might hit 20 percent. A second public university is being planned, but its opening may be years away.
As of this article’s publication time, Kuwait University had not responded to Al-Fanar Media’s inquiries about its admission policies and plans to deal with the number of students who were denied admission despite meeting the admission requirements.
In previous media statements, Ali Almutairi, dean of admission and registration at Kuwait University, pointed out that reducing the university’s budget affected its ability to admit new students. “The number of newly admitted students depends on the space capacity, the number of faculty members, and the available budget,” he said in remarks reported last year, adding that “with the significantly reduced budget, this will affect the university’s capacity to admit new students.”
The university has 17 colleges and operates under the supervision of the University Council, headed by the minister of education and the minister of higher education.
According to Kuwait University’s official website, the university has 1,560 faculty members, 307 assistant teachers, and 36,411 students.
“The crisis of cutting down admissions reflects a bad reality Kuwait University has been experiencing for years due to a decrease in the budget and an increase in the number of students, which is negatively reflected on education quality.”Ibrahim Al-Hamoud
A professor of public law and chairman of the Teaching Staff Association at Kuwait University
Concerns About Fairness and Quality
Many professors welcomed reducing the number of admitted students, believing it is in the interest of educational quality, regardless of the reasons.
“The crisis of cutting down admissions reflects a bad reality Kuwait University has been experiencing for years due to a decrease in the budget and an increase in the number of students, which is negatively reflected on education quality,” Ibrahim Al-Hamoud, a professor of public law and chairman of the Teaching Staff Association at Kuwait University, said in a phone call.
Al-Hamoud pointed out that the quality-control process is governed by several criteria related to the available space, teaching halls, and the ratio of admitted students to the number of professors. (See a related article, “Measuring Quality in Higher Education Is a Tricky Proposition.”)
“In certain past years, the large increase in the number of students exceeded the faculty members, forcing us to open additional classrooms in exchange for extra money,” he said. “And in light of the increased teaching hours, most of the professors abandon conducting research.”
Many students, on the other hand, see the decision to reduce admissions as unjust.
In a statement, the National Union of Kuwaiti Students, Kuwait University Branch, said that the decision denied “thousands of students their right to education due to poor administrative planning of the Council of Ministers.” The statement added that “education is a fundamental right of Kuwaiti citizens with a binding constitutional text.”
The students’ union called on the Kuwaiti government to increase the university’s budget to solve this crisis. “The university is not a ministerial portfolio whose expenses and decisions can be controlled,” it said. “It is the future of Kuwait, its employees and leaders in the near future.”
The decision denied “thousands of students their right to education due to poor administrative planning of the Council of Ministers,” the National Union of Kuwaiti Students, Kuwait University Branch, said in a written statement.
Abdul-Rahman Al-Hamli, president of the students’ union, said he believed that the new decision is in the interest of private universities, as students have no other alternative to complete their university education in Kuwait. (See a related article, “Are Private Universities Worth the Money?”)
As a representative of the students’ union, Al-Hamli met with the Education Committee of the Kuwaiti National Assembly and urged the lawmakers to cancel the university’s decision to reduce the number of admissions and to strengthen the university’s budget with additional financial resources to ensure the students’ right to education. However, there has been no official announcement that includes a change so far.
Professors suggest other ways to accommodate the increasing number of students, such as establishing additional public universities, speeding up the completion of one now in the planning stages, increasing financial allocations and hiring more faculty members.
“It is necessary to increase the number of faculty members, and to establish a second public university to accommodate these large numbers of students,” Hamad Albloshi, an assistant professor of political science at Kuwait University, said in a phone call. He pointed out that the university only hires professors from the ranks of students who were sent to study abroad on university scholarships.
“The current policy of employing faculty members and the numbers of students on scholarships must be changed,” Albloshi said. The university should be obliged “to appoint people from outside its scholarship system, as long as they are academically eligible,” he said.
“The current policy of employing faculty members and the numbers of students on scholarships must be changed.”Hamad Albloshi
An assistant professor of political science at Kuwait University
In June, Mohammad Al-Faris, Kuwait’s minister of higher education, announced that Kuwait University’s old buildings will be used to launch a new public university. He indicated that he was in the process of appointing a governing board that will develop proposals for the required disciplines and submit them to the Public Universities Council for approval.
Al-Hamoud, the chairman of the Teaching Staff Association, said the plan to launch a new public university is a good solution, but noted that it will take time. He said it will take five to seven years for the new university to be ready to receive students. He called for accelerating work on preparing it because he believes it is the best solution for this crisis.
Al-Hamli, the president of students’ union, however, rejects this solution as unrealistic.
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“This proposal does not provide urgent solutions to the crisis of students who meet the admission requirements,” Al-Hamli said. Admitting the rejected students is the only solution, he said.