Bangladesh delves into Gulf to attract foreign students with cheaper tuition

DHAKA: Bangladeshi educational institutions are to showcase their facilities to foreigners at an exhibition starting in the UAE on Friday, as the South Asian country is looking to attract more students from the Gulf with cheaper tuition.

Bangladesh has witnessed a gradual growth in international enrolment, with slightly more than 1,600 overseas students — mostly from India, Nepal, Bhutan, and African countries — currently studying at its universities, according to the University Grants Commission, the nation’s higher education regulatory body.

Authorities are seeking to increase numbers and tap into a new market, the Middle East, by offering courses at the country’s 163 state and private universities, 115 medical colleges, and more than 2,500 other higher education institutions.

Bangladesh Education Forum 2022, taking place in Dubai from Nov. 4 to 6, will be the first convention to promote Bangladesh’s higher education in the Gulf.

Officials from the Ministry of Education, the University Grants Commission, and the Association of Private Universities of Bangladesh will be participating in the event which is expected to feature around 1,000 academicians and students.

Bangladeshi Deputy Education Minister Mohibul Hasan Chowdhury is scheduled to inaugurate the forum.

“People from the Arab nations mostly don’t know about the education quality and facilities provided by the universities here,” Prof. Biswajit Chanda, a member of the University Grants Commission, told Arab News.

“If we can reach out to the people from the Arab nations, we will receive a good number of students from there in the coming days.”

What may help attract foreign students is the relatively cheap tuition offered by Bangladeshi universities and low costs of living.

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“They can have quality education here at a competitive cost, which is even up to 60 percent lower comparing with neighboring countries like India,” Chanda said.

“In similar-standard universities, if a student needs to pay $1,000 per year for having a degree from India, here the student needs to pay between $400 and $600.”

He added that the competitive quality of education in Bangladesh and its ongoing improvement, supported by a government boost in spending on the sector to $4 billion this year.

“In terms of quality, especially for medical, engineering, science, and technology, our teachers are very well-equipped. Some of the teachers have acquired PhDs from different North American universities. So, we have quality faculties as well,” he said.

“In some cases, some students don’t get chances in American and European universities due to very hard competition. For them, our universities can be a good platform for higher studies.”

Saifur Rahman Chowdhury, the chief executive officer of Pan Asian Group, the organizer of Bangladesh Education Forum 2022, said the Dubai event aimed to strengthen the country’s reputation as an alternative destination for quality and cost-effective education and “reposition Bangladesh” in the Middle East.

“Bangladesh Education Forum aims to promote Bangladesh’s higher education in the Gulf region with a target to increase foreign students’ enrolment into Bangladeshi universities, engineering, and medical colleges,” he told Arab News.

Besides the obvious target, which is nationals of Gulf states, the forum will also seek to attract students from Bangladeshi families living and working in the region.

“More than 50,000 Bangladeshi families live in the UAE among the 1.2 million non-resident population,” Chowdhury said.

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“There is a direct captive market of the large non-resident Bangladeshi community for Bangladeshi universities and medical colleges to explore.”


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