Al Ghurair Foundation launches scholars’ programme for talented Arab students in collaboration with MIT
Dubai - The Dubai-based Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education has announced the Open Learning Scholars Programme, a ground-breaking collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The foundation is one of the largest privately funded philanthropic education initiatives in the world.
The scholars’ programme is part of the MITx MicroMasters credential in data science and management. The programme combines online courses and one residential semester. Participants must complete five online courses to earn the credential, after which they can apply to complete a master’s degree on campus at MIT or another university or seek employment opportunities.
“It will not only allow Arab students to upgrade their skills while living in the region but it will also improve their job prospects in a rapidly changing and globally competitive marketplace,” said Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair, chairman of the foundation’s board of trustees.
“Our goal is really not to lose time, as the Arab youth has already lost a lot of time.”
“We wanted to give them access to high-quality education without being on campus. They can access it from Morocco or do it from Egypt or from a Syrian refugee camp. The challenge is to make sure these students are academically serious and have the discipline to stay on track and pass the different exams.”
Foundation Chief Executive Officer Maysa Jalbout noted that the programme “was designed with every Arab youth in mind”.
“We have thought about the challenges that they are facing. Our slogan or our message to Arab youth is that ‘where you live should not limit what you can achieve’,” Jalbout said.
“In the months leading up to the formal announcement in April this year, we spent a lot of time understanding how we can have the greatest impact with the very generous investment that Abdulla Ahmad al-Ghurair had made towards the foundation. We wanted to understand what type of education we can provide that could be most impactful; we also wanted to find the best partners and, finally, make education most accessible to Arab youth,” she said.
According to Jalbout, accessing proper education “is a huge issue” in the Arab world.
“We know, for example, that many refugees don’t have access to education. We know that the quality of education is challenged, whereby the outcomes of the university systems are not what they should be,” Jalbout said.
“Employers are constantly speaking of the skills’ gap. All those challenges, we looked at very deeply and we developed our programmes to respond to those challenges and to support Arab youth in the best way possible.”
The foundation in April announced a partnership with Khalifa University, American University of Sharjah, American University of Beirut and American University in Cairo, in creating Al Ghurair STEM Scholars Programme, which provides undergraduate and graduate scholarships to high-achieving, underserved Arab and Emirati students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at those universities.
“Under this programme, we are partnering up with those universities to provide Arab youth who want to study at those institutions with tuition fees, cost of living and the cost of education material that they need. We have made three-year commitments with each of those universities,” said Jalbout. “We hope that the first group of Arab students who benefit from those programmes in universities will start very soon this September.”
The foundation’s goal is to reach a minimum of 15,000 Arab youth interested in pursuing STEM education over the next ten years, as well as supporting 5,000 high-achieving grade 11 and 12 Emirati students at public schools, preparing them to study at top universities.
Jalbout said the third programme targeting Emirati students in public schools would soon be launched. “Al Ghurair Young Thinkers Programme will provide the up-skilling preparation for college programmes and supporting them so that they are qualified to apply to these top universities,” she said.
Jalbout said she thought she had the best job in the world to be able to deliver education to every Arab youth who wants it.
“I feel extremely fortunate that I have found such a generous family that really cares about education for Arab youth,” she said. “We are putting in place a very rigorous monitoring and evaluation system whereby every young person that we take on, we will be able to follow with them every step of the way.”