Priority Countries

The Gulf States  Bahrain  Forward Plan  Links

The links between Bahrain and the UK are strong and deep-rooted. There is a long tradition of Bahraini students studying in the UK with funding provided by the Government of Bahrain or private companies. English is recognised as essential for Bahrain's economic development.

The UK is the traditional destination for sponsored postgraduate study, but has been overtaken by the USA in the growing privately funded market for undergraduate and further education overseas. Bahrain's cultural life is becoming increasingly Americanised, a trend reflected by the increase in the number of US-type private schools. The main challenge is to maintain postgraduate numbers, while increasing the UK's share of privately funded training against American and growing Indian competition for students.

In a sophisticated and mature market, there are opportunities for the UK in vocational and further education where competency-based qualifications are widely accepted; English-language teaching; short courses provision; distance education; publishing and joint ventures in-country. Bahrain's ambition to become a regional training and human resource development centre for the Gulf Region will be of assistance to UK suppliers.


The UK and Kuwait have been friends for over 200 years. The UK was part of the international military coalition that liberated Kuwait in February 1991 from Iraqi occupation. Because of its wealth from oil, Kuwait is amongst the richest countries in the world. Kuwait has a young and a fast growing population.

Despite close Anglo-Kuwaiti Links and the long tradition of Kuwaiti students studying in the UK with funding from the government of Kuwait, the USA has displaced the UK as the major supplier of education and training. The younger generations of Kuwaitis are increasingly American trained. They prefer the USA to the UK as a study destination.

The USA receives more government funded scholars than the UK. It also receives more privately funded students, who represent the fastest growing part of the market for overseas education. The UK is perceived as a country in which it is difficult for Kuwaiti school leavers to gain access to further and higher education and where costs are high. The challenge to the UK is to increase its share of both government and privately funded students from Kuwait. A critical success factor will be the acceptance and use of the UK foundation and bridging courses. There is a perception in Kuwait that American institutions are better and more professional at marketing their education and training than UK counterparts.

In the context of the Government of Kuwait's policy of human resource development through education and training, there are opportunities for the UK to provide education and training in the UK; to help formulate and implement Kuwaiti plans for vocational and further education, especially in collaboration with the private sector; to develop the markets for EFL training in the UK, multi-media materials, equipment, UK examinations and qualifications. Further preparatory work is necessary to realise potential opportunities in distance education and in-country courses. The Kuwait Association of British Alumni may be a source of assistance for UK suppliers wishing to develop activities in Kuwait.


Oman and the UK have close and effective ties. The tradition of Omanis studying in the UK with funding from the Government of Oman and private companies is well -established and well-organised. English is much in demand because it is the means to education and employment. The private sector is increasingly providing the funding both for training overseas and for post-secondary further and vocational education in Oman delivered in collaboration with overseas partners.

Although the UK is still the main study destination for Omanis studying overseas, the USA is now a major competitor. The evidence suggests that those Omani students making their own decisions about country of study, rather than following the direction of their sponsor or parents, increasingly opt for America.

The growing trend in favour of the USA reflects the glamorous image the young have of America from satellite television and other cultural products. The challenge for the UK is to maintain the number of officially sponsored students while increasing its share of privately funded students, who represent the fastest growing part of the market in Oman. There is a common local perception that further and higher education in the UK is more difficult and less accessible than education at the same level in the USA. Overcoming this perception will be of critical importance if the UK is to successfully meet the challenge. Success will depend on establishing Omani confidence in flexible bridging and foundation courses whether delivered in the UK, Oman or the Gulf Region. Plans to open more private universities in Oman will also provide a further element of competition, as many students may prefer to stay at home.

There are new opportunities for the UK to provide consultancy and other services in support of Oman's educational reform plan; to develop a UK boarding school access route; to influence the further and extensive development in Oman of competency-based vocational training in the implementation of the policy of Omanisation; to establish local partnership and joint venture arrangements with private sector partners in vocational training and post secondary education, to capitalise on the growing Omani interest in distance education; to take advantage of new openings in the EFL market and to supply equipment, books, examinations and in-country courses.


Despite close and long-standing historical links between Qatar and the UK, the USA has displaced the UK as the major overseas supplier of English-medium education and training at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The younger generations of Qataris are increasingly American trained and prefer the USA to the UK as a study destination. It is hoped that the British Alumni Association will help to improve the UK's position.

In the privately funded part of the market for overseas training, which is the fastest growing part in Qatar the UK is perceived as a country in which it is difficult to gain access to further and higher education and where tuition fees and living costs are high. Official sponsors, who are aware of the strengths of UK education, tend to share the opinion that foundation courses at American community colleges are an advantage for Qataris who have to bridge the gap between Qatari school certificate and further and higher education overseas. The challenge to the UK is to reverse the trend in favour of America by increasing its share of the Qatari education and training market. A critical success factor is the acceptance and use of UK foundation courses by Qataris.

There are new opportunities for UK suppliers in education and training in the UK; consultancy and English language services; joint ventures with local partners, vocational training and boarding school education. There may be future opportunities for distance education.

Saudi Arabia

Population growth at 4% is one of the highest in the world with a projected Saudi population of 38 million by 2020. The educational system will have to expand rapidly in both the public and private sectors to satisfy the growing demand. Much more could be done to increase the UK's share of Saudis studying overseas, despite the USA's traditional dominance in this market. Opportunities exist to develop distance learning and collaborative joint ventures. These have the advantage of developing structural relationships which help to sustain lasting relationships with the overseas partner institutions. There is tremendous potential for collaborating in the development of education for women who are unable to travel abroad freely.

A large majority of Saudis studying abroad are following postgraduate courses. Britain remains a second choice of destination after the USA with a 17% share of the publicly funded scholarship students. Only Canada has increased its market share significantly in the last ten years. Medical students who would have previously studied in Britain are now finding it easier to be placed in Canada.

Saudi academics and sponsoring bodies are very conscious of quality issues and British education is commonly considered to fall short of best American standards. There is limited knowledge of the British educational system. A perceived lack of taught course elements in British masters and doctorate degrees also deters placement in the UK.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE is not an easy market for British education and training products. Educational standards have, in the past, prevented all but a trickle of UAE nationals from benefiting from UK certification.

The number of UAE nationals in further education in the UK could probably be added to by recruitment in the secondary school sector.

Access or Bridging courses are among the main offerings which could attract UAE students but, as yet, they have achieved no significant profile in the UAE.

Given that there are few postgraduate qualifications available in the UAE, postgraduate education is the fastest growing sector of the overseas educational market for UAE nationals.

Some UAE students travel to the UK to learn English, often accompanying their parents during the summer.

If the number of young Emirati nationals learning EFL in Britain can be increased, then it may be that some of these will also be persuaded to choose the UK as a destination for undergraduate studies.

There is a large potential market for quality open and part-time distance learning courses offered in conjunction with reliable local partners.

Britain is widely considered to be a safer environment and consequently a more suitable destination for female students.

Britain's relative proximity to the UAE is considered an advantage by some. However, a number of British universities are developing relationships with local partners in order to make higher education more accessible to those people unable to study overseas. This market is primarily comprised of expatriates working in the private sector. There are issues of quality assurance, which pose a threat.


It is said that only a small percentage of the country's population believe that education leads to better jobs for their children. Unemployment stands at a staggering 35% of the total labour force, the majority of which are unskilled or semi-skilled. Yet at the same time the labour market suffers severe shortages in technical and medical professions, and there is a pronounced lack of teachers with higher education.

The best estimate of illiteracy is 70%, which suggests that poor health and attendance of the school population makes basic education less than effective. The illiteracy rate is particularly high among females and in rural areas.

The economic outlook is not completely gloomy. The economy has stabilised and there are signs that the Structural Adjustment Policy which includes privatisation is leading to greater efficiency and productivity.

There are opportunities for development projects in technical assistance to primary, secondary and vocational education require quality educational goods & services from outside. Similarly in-service training projects, particularly aimed at technical and middle management capacity in both the public and private sectors, need external supply.

The private sector in education is growing at a phenomenal rate and many schools & universities in Yemen are bilingual or taught in English therefore a source of private students likely to study abroad.


Scottish Education + Training Activity in the Gulf States

To date substantial activity has been taken forward on behalf of Scottish Education + Training by Scottish Trade International.

  • Production of a video, in English, and brochure, in Arabic, explaining the Scottish education system. To order copies of the video or brochures visit our Marketing Materials.
  • For further information about SE + T's work in the Gulf States or to discuss opportunities for Scottish education providers in the Gulf States email [email protected]

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