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Jordan Acts to Cut Number of Medical and Engineering Students Abroad

In an attempt to cut the number of Jordanian medical and engineering students abroad, Jordan’s Higher Education Council issued decisions this month to raise the minimum admission grades for these and other disciplines, starting in the 2023-2024 academic year.

The council also published a list of new academic programmes it had approved at public and private universities in Jordan in specialties that it said “meet the needs of the local, regional and international labour market.”

The programmes are in specialties like data science, finance and digital marketing, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and sustainable energy.

Thirty-three of them are bachelor’s degree programmes, three are higher diploma programmes, 23 are master’s degree programmes, and two are doctoral-level programmes.

Regulations for Studying Abroad

The new conditions for studying at universities outside Jordan raise admission grades to 85 percent for medicine and dentistry faculties, and to 80 percent for engineering, architecture, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

In addition, the new decisions require undergraduate students to reside abroad and attend regularly throughout the study period.

“Jordanian medical schools graduate about 1,600 graduates annually, in addition to 1,000 graduates from universities abroad. The labour market, however, does not absorb more than 1,100 doctors per year.”

Nathir Obeidat President of the University of Jordan

Master’s degree students must spend one academic year of eight months in their country of study. Doctoral students should spend five semesters, or twenty months, abroad.

Muhannad Al-Khatib, head of the Admission Coordination Unit at Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education, said these steps were aimed at regulating the number of students enrolling in medicine and engineering faculties because of a steep rise in the number of these graduates. He said he also thought the decision would raise the quality of these majors’ graduates.

Al-Khatib told Al-Fanar Media there were about 34,500 Jordanian undergraduate and graduate students studying in 56 universities, 19,000 of whom were studying medical specialties.

“You can just imagine how many graduates will be pushed, in the coming years, into the labour market in these stagnant disciplines,” he said. “This will increase unemployment to unprecedented rates in the history of the Kingdom of Jordan.”

Al-Khatib said making students stay for specific periods of time at their universities abroad was a way of confirming their attendance their seriousness and ensuring that they were attending real universities.

He said authorities had discovered “thousands of cases” in which students had obtained degrees from non-Jordanian universities “without even being there during the study period.”

He also noted the widespread promotion of fake universities on social media.

More Graduates Than Jobs

Nathir Obeidat, president of the University of Jordan, said the number of medical graduates “highly exceeds” the vacancies in the labour market. The importance of the new directives lies in reducing the number of graduates in “saturated” majors and encouraging them to enroll in new ones, he told Al-Fanar Media.

Obeidat, who recently served as Minister of Health, explained that “Jordanian medical schools graduate about 1,600 students annually, in addition to 1,000 graduates from universities outside Jordan, while the labour market does not absorb more than 1,100 doctors per year.”

He also agreed that making students stay in their country of study was a necessary decision to protect against students enrolling in unregulated institutions abroad.

“You can imagine how many graduates will be pushed, in the coming years, into the labour market in these stagnant disciplines. This will increase unemployment to unprecedented rates.”

Muhannad Al-Khatib Head of the Admission Coordination Unit at Jordan’s Ministry of Higher Education.

“This will reflect positively on enrollment in graduate programmes at Jordanian universities that offer dozens of specialisations,” he added.

Obeidat said he also believes reducing the number of admissions “requires the Higher Education Council to stop opening new engineering or medical majors in universities.”

A ‘Tragic’ Reality for Some

Fakher Daas, coordinator of the National Campaign for Defending  Students’ Rights (Thabahtona), said the new decisions, albeit late, would help address the “tragic” reality of medical and engineering graduates, many of whom are unemployed, and the huge number of students still going into medical and engineering disciplines in Jordan and abroad.

In a telephone interview with Al-Fanar Media, Daas said higher-education authorities should go further. He called for halving the number of students admitted to medical schools in public universities and stopping the easy approval of licences for new medical and dental colleges at private and some public universities.

Jordan’s public universities “do not have enough infrastructure or teaching hospitals to accommodate students of these disciplines,” Daas said. He called for a review of admission plans after ten years, to achieve the optimal number of students while still meeting quality standards.

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Mohammed Taleb Obaidat, president of Jadara University, a private institution in northern Jordan, said he expected the new regulations on study abroad would lead to large numbers of students enrolling in private universities in the kingdom, which could support the local economy and promote educational tourism.

Obaidat estimated that about 15,000 students will enroll in private universities as a result of the decisions.

He added that he thinks that raising the admission threshold for medical and engineering students who wish to study abroad will “bring justice” between students in Jordanian universities and those in universities abroad.

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