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Why are students in Bahrain choosing universities abroad?

“I’d rather study overseas than locally because it would look better on my resume. Apart from this, the cost of studying at a private university in Bahrain costs the same, if not, more expensive than universities in other countries”, said Fatima, a local senior high school student in Bahrain.

We were intrigued to see why students are choosing universities abroad instead of picking local options. We asked students, parents and educators to know more about this phenomenon and gain their insights on this matter.

More and more students and parents are considering international universities when deciding for future studies. “Quality education”, international recognition, employment prospects and ‘status’ are some of the driving forces inspiring them to apply abroad.

“We’ve decided to let our children pick universities abroad because of the international accreditation. We also saw that these universities are more technologically advanced and have better offerings than the ones that can be found locally”, said John, a Bahrain resident whose children are currently enrolled here.

But the coronavirus pandemic might have brought upon a different perspective. It has severely impacted study abroad planning due to heightened health risks and ever-changing travel restrictions.

Fatema, a citizen whose children are already looking for university options, shared: “Pre-covid, letting our children move abroad for international studies was pretty much set in stone. But now, we’re very apprehensive. Education is not something to be taken lightly but if there are universities in Bahrain that offer an excellent educational experience, we’ll instead be happy to spend a fortune to explore our options here”.

Meanwhile, Sarah, an educational consultant commented that there are a handful of options in Bahrain offering outstanding education: “There are excellent universities in Bahrain providing quality education and internationally recognized courses in collaboration with their sister schools/organizations abroad. Parents and students just need to remove their misconception that local options aren’t great because most of the time, they are. Site visits as well as conversations with educators, university directors and counsellors are great steps towards breaking the said misconception”.

Based on our survey, the desire to study internationally remains strong, however, “feelings of uncertainty creep up” – most students that we talked to said. Moreover, the students who are keen to move abroad have a strong preference for face-to-face classes which have also been impacted by COVID-19 developments.

“I would really want to study abroad but the pandemic got me anxious and confused on whether or not I should pursue it”, one of our respondents answered. “Perhaps I’ll just study locally. I am not paying a huge amount for online international classes”, he added.

Moreover, those who are already studying overseas shared that the pandemic has somehow affected their academic motivation.

“The pandemic definitely takes a toll on our emotional and mental wellbeing; it adds another stress to the academic life. My friends and I are actually planning to transfer to universities back home in Bahrain. We’d rather go through this challenging period with our families”.

The uncertainty and confusion felt by a huge part of the world due to the pandemic are reflected in the opinions shared by our respondents. At the end of the day, parents and students are only seeking for the best path to take.

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