Number of Saudi scholarship students to US drops by 40,000

Published April 13th, 2016 - 08:00 GMT
Saudi graduates of US universities are encouraged to return to the Kingdom upon graduation, but many prefer to remain overseas. (File photo)
Saudi graduates of US universities are encouraged to return to the Kingdom upon graduation, but many prefer to remain overseas. (File photo)

The number of Saudi students studying in the United States has fallen from 120,000 in 2015 to 80,000 in 2016 largely because many have graduated and returned to the Kingdom.

This is according to Mohammad Al-Isa, cultural attaché in the United States, who said that this was the figure for 51 states. He said the scholarship program has been reevaluated but would continue to provide opportunities for Saudis to study abroad, a local publication reported.

Al-Isa said his office was responsible for ensuring Saudi students are admitted to the best universities in the United States, including Ivy League institutions such as Harvard and Stanford. 

Al-Isa said there was no room for laziness, with those failing to work being sent back to the Kingdom with nothing to show for their time overseas. The program was being amended to include some of those studying in the United States at their own expense, he said.

The scholarship program made great strides in ensuring scholarships in various disciplines, he said. In the medical field, Saudis were currently being trained at important medical centers including Jones Hopkins and Mayo Clinic.

In addition, outstanding students producing groundbreaking work now have a major law office, hired by the Saudi government and specializing in patents, to protect their rights. The number of patents filed by Saudi students has risen from 60 to 300, said Al-Isa.

He said that Saudis are encouraged to return home after obtaining their certificates. If students want to pursue their academic careers further, they can do so through one of the 37 universities in the Kingdom. For those who wish to engage in practical work, it would be the best to return home and find jobs, he said.

He said Saudi scholarship students mainly face problems with the immigration department when they move from one university to another without consulting the cultural attaché and official United States bodies, or if their visas expire.

The cultural attaché’s office has social activities and educational and awareness programs to warn them about going to places where there is unrest, or getting involved in political discussions.

Al-Isa criticized Mohammed Al-Nimr, 29, son of Nimr Al-Nimr who was executed along with 47 terrorists earlier this year, for giving an interview with a United Kingdom newspaper and other media outlets that accused the Kingdom of human rights abuses.

Al-Isa said that Mohammed Al-Nimr had only started making these “extremists comments” after he graduated from a university in the United States. These views did not harm the Kingdom in any way, only the citizen himself, said Al-Isa.

On a related matter, David De Maria, assistant dean for international programs at Montana University, said the number of students coming from Saudi Arabia has fallen, which was unfortunate because it would deprive the two nations of developing closer ties.


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