President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih launched Thursday morning a free education scheme for students pursuing first degrees in the Maldives, a key campaign pledge and signature policy initiative of the new administration.
Students at the Maldives National University and Islamic University of Maldives will no longer have to pay course fees, President Solih declared at a launching ceremony at the MNU.
The scheme will also cover “a very high percentage” of course fees at private colleges, he added, urging youth to make use of the unprecedented “golden opportunity.”
The MVR3.4 billion (US$220 million) allocated for the education sector in 2019 is the highest in the country’s history, Solih said, stressing the importance of “creating a generation of educated youth” to ensure national development.
While 8,000 students are presently enrolled at the two state-funded universities and private colleges, the government estimates the number will grow to 10,000 due to the free education scheme.
As pledged during his campaign for September’s presidential election, the interest rate for loans taken to study at overseas institutions has been lowered to three percent with a 25 percent increase in the repayment period, Solih noted.
Briefing the press, Higher Education Minister Dr Ibrahim Hassan said the estimated cost for the free education scheme is MVR156 million, of which 60 percent would be spent on covering fees at private sector institutions.
The government will reimburse semester fees that have already been paid, he said.
The degree courses must be approved by the Maldives Qualifications Authority and the scheme will not be limited to students who commence first degrees this year, he added, inviting students in their second or third years to apply.
Of courses offered in the Maldives, the scheme will cover 100 percent of tuition fees for 62 courses, between 80 to 90 percent for 17 courses, between 60 to 80 percent for 32 courses, and between 40 to 60 percent for 41 courses.
Application forms to join the scheme are now available from the higher education ministry and the Maldives polytechnic.
Students must submit required documents such as a placement letter, after which agreements will be signed with both the student and the institution. This is necessary to ensure quality of education and protect the rights of the student, the minister said.
Applicants must be full-time students. Maldivian who hold graduate degrees will not be eligible.
For twinning programmes offered in partnership with foreign institutions, the scheme will only cover fees for components taught in the Maldives.
From today onwards students can pursue their first degrees in-country for free with the launch of “Free Education Scheme for Degree Students”. Education is the great enabler and we hope to develop the potential of our youth and see them contribute to the nation even more. pic.twitter.com/PUZBkjn5TJ
— Ibrahim Mohamed Solih (@ibusolih) February 14, 2019
Pres @ibusolih launches “Free Education Scheme for Degree Students” at the @MNUedu today. Under the scheme, students can study for their first degrees in the Maldives for free – a first in the Maldives, and reflects the government’s commitment to creating opportunities for youth. pic.twitter.com/MASQWlHpC6
— Ibrahim Hood (@MvSpokesperson) February 14, 2019
Students currently enrolled in any first degree program in the country are also eligible for tuition fee grants under the scheme. pic.twitter.com/HdkiXanxqi
— Ministry of Higher Education (@MoHE_MV) February 14, 2019