Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Higher education: ‘Culture of e-admission’ catching up

Higher education: ‘Culture of e-admission’ catching up
Tuesday, August 28, 2007 12:49:44 AM Oman Time

MUSCAT — The Higher Education Admissions Centre (HEAC) is the brainchild of the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE), and one of a number of new initiatives designed to modernise the operations of the ministry in the interest of the public.

Gone are the days when students and their parents from all over the Sultanate, including the faraway regions of Dhofar and Musandam, had to make the journey to the capital to present their application documents to various public and private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Many students would go from one private college to another to seek admission.

Now all that students have to do is use their home computers or go to the computer lab at one of 500 local centres throughout the country where trained staff will help them apply online. While not everyone has a home computer, most people have access to a mobile phone; and, amazingly, students can also apply by SMS text on their mobile phones. Here is how it works. The student sends a text message to 90190, a special number registered by HEAC with Omantel, and accesses 22 different services – from information to the application process itself. In order to obtain information about these services, students can text a message to 90190 and receive an automatic reply from HEAC. The HEAC system, one of the first of its kind in the world, is fully automated and completely user-friendly.

This has virtually revolutionised the once cumbersome application process, streamlining it and making it highly efficient and effective. On August 9, HEAC had 14,151 seats on offer. Two days later, by August 11, more than 13,000 students had accepted their offers, using either the internet or SMS messaging.

Dr Said Al Adawi, director-general of the MoHE’s Higher Education Admissions Centre, explains that, with some 60,000 students graduating from Grade 12 this year alone, the aim is “to build a ‘culture of e-admission’ in every school. Staff are being trained to help students see e-access to Higher Education services as a way of life”. And they are finding that a surprising number of students are already very IT literate and others learn quickly.

The HEAC is a branch or Directorate-General within the Ministry of Higher Education located in Azaiba and run by 16 professional Omani staff.

Dr Said mentions that, when the centre opened a year ago, crowds of students came in person, but the number of visitors has already declined by more than 300 per cent and keeps on declining, as more and more people come to understand how much easier it is to apply online than in person.

Fee paying students can apply to any of Oman’s 22 private colleges and universities through the HEAC website. Last year 4,000 students obtained their admissions in the private HEIs via the HEAC website; and this year 6,000 students did so. This summer, the MoHE allocated more than 250 scholarships for study abroad through the HEAC system, as well as 2,188 seats for low income and social welfare students.

Non-Omanis living outside the country may also use the HEAC website to apply for seats in the private HEIs in Oman. Students have applied from places such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and some African countries. The website has had more than a million visitors since it started just over a year ago.

Dr Said Al Adawi sums it up: “e-admission in Oman is a phenomenon which has really caught on. People are finding that the website is a tremendous resource. There are links with the overseas universities which are academic partners of Oman’s HEIs. Universities and colleges can post their details on the website; and so students can easily access good sources of information”.

Higher education is more important than ever before as Oman undergoes rapid development and strives for economic diversification within the global market. In these circumstances, and with competition for highly prized seats in higher education, HEAC is especially concerned about transparency and equity. In terms of transparency, courses and details of the HEIs are published in a handbook distributed free to all students. At the same time, students can obtain necessary information from the HEAC website. Also, as new scholarships become available, the information is posted on the website in order to spread the news as broadly as possible.

Deadlines for students to submit their applications, accept their offers and register at the HEIs are clearly posted. Any student who feels that he or she has not been treated fairly at any point in the application process may appeal. The Appeal Board consists of members not connected with the government who are able to consider cases objectively. The Appeal Board’s decisions are final and do not require the approval of HEAC or the Ministry of Higher Education. Last year the Appeal Board gave 3,000 students who did not apply, or who missed the deadline, another chance to access the system and obtain seats.

HEAC is now undertaking a new statistical database project in order to support the higher education planning process and to improve the quality and consistency of the information flow between the Ministry of Higher Education, the HEIs and various stakeholders including other ministries involved in higher education, the Oman Accreditation Board and the Oman Research Council.

All of this makes the Ministry of Higher Education a major player in the government’s overall thrust in e-communication and e-administration as the Sultanate secures its place in the knowledge era.


Article from Times of Oman; click on header to go to original article.

This certainly is good news; according to Gulf News, Oman is the first GCC country to adopt the e-admission system...Gulf News has THIS article on the matter.

As a side note, our friend Ali (sleepless) is unwell...please pray for his speedy recovery.


vishnuprasath said...

Education is a must for everyone, only then a person will communicate and face problems easily in all aspects. Plenty of jobs openings are there but it is meant only for the right candidate, its the right time to develop new skills to become one of the right person what the company/organization expects.

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