Can you highlight some of the major developments of the university in terms of new programs and courses?
The University of Nizwa has been working hard on implementing a new strategy of expansion from 2015 to 2020. There are several new programs that have been added for both the undergraduate and Master's degrees. We have finalized the license for visual arts and fine arts. We have also added several Master's programs one of which is for teachers of Arabic as a second language. We also have a master's degree for technical staff in applied chemistry. We have several programs related to pharmacy and nursing in the pipeline. We introduced several programs for economics and finance, and we are including Islamic finance and related issues. We also have sustainability management, and in terms of research, we managed to acquire the national chair for materials science and metallurgy. We are doing this in collaboration with the University of Cambridge. Oman has been blessed with great mineral resources so the aim is to add value there.
What have been the results thus far for Nizwa graduates entering the national workforce?
In order to be ahead of the game, we are reviewing all of our academic programs. A major part of this is revising curriculum development and delivery. The government has conducted surveys, and we have conducted surveys as well to see what our graduates are doing. We have seen an enhanced positioning of our graduates, and many are employed sooner after graduating. The government has also hired many of our graduates in the past few years, and over 80% are employed which is a high rate. Many of our masters students graduate straight into a job, and it is an added value and life improvement tool for them to shift to a new position shortly thereafter. We have graduated overall 6,800 students, which is now around the same number of students we have on campus. Our graduates in engineering especially are well received by international companies, and our graduates in pharmacy and nursing are well received by hospitals.
Do you engage in talks with the private sector here in Oman to see what their human capital needs are?
Higher education is increasingly engaging with the private sector. However, there are some issues right now. The private sector has a problem because most of it is made up of small companies who cannot afford to employ graduates. The multinational companies also have limited human capital costs. We are now producing many female graduates, and our student population is 85% female. We have created advisory councils for each college of the university that composed of potential employers of both public and private companies. We are also working hard on entrepreneurial studies, creating a center for entrepreneurship in order to help students start their own businesses. The government is requiring all students to take a course in entrepreneurship before they graduate. We are trying to be part of the solutions, and we want to enhance opportunities for our students.