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World-class education for every Omani
OMAN has one of the best educational systems among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and also a leading university that is world-ranked.
Ali bin Saud Al Baimani, vice-chancellor of Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), said the university has been progressing rapidly in international ranking in recent years.
"Scimago Institution Rankings has placed SQU 580 in the world in its latest 2016 edition," he noted.
The ranking known as "Scimago Institution Rankings" done by Scimago Lab, measures the research output of universities around the world. Research quality is assessed under three general areas: research 50 per cent, innovation 30 per cent, and society impact 20 per cent.
In 2016, 5,147 universities and research centres out of a total of 20,000 were included in the rankings and SQU was placed 580 among them, putting it among the top 3 per cent of institutions in the world, Dr Ali said.
SQU has been consistently going up in the ranking since 2009. In addition, it is also ranked fifth among the GCC national universities, close behind the top four universities of neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
"SQU is committed to meeting its vision and to improve overall performance over the next few years in all fronts of education, research output and community service enabled by strong global collaboration," Dr Ali said.
Inspired by Oman's ruler Sultan Qaboos, SQU has been putting more emphasis on scientific research in the last decade.
During two visits to the university in 2000 and 2010, Sultan Qaboos stressed the importance of scientific research and innovation. His benevolent gift to the University of the HM Research Grant has given enormous impetus to the researchers in SQU to aim for high quality research of international calibre. Another aspect which has greatly assisted the growth of research output has been the research grants available from The Research Council (TRC).
Meanwhile, in the QS World University Rankings 2016, SQU has been ranked between 451 and 460 in the world. SQU has been consistently moving ahead since 2014, when it was ranked 601-650.
Dr Ali noted that the university's College of Education has also been making great gains. It recently received accreditation for seven years (2016-2022) under the US-based National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) standards. The performance-based accreditation system for teacher preparation ensures that teacher candidates are well equipped for P-12 student teaching.
"It was a huge milestone achieved in the history of SQU, and marked a monumental success for the university's pursuit to achieve international standards in all academic programmes offered at the university," said Dr Ali.
International accreditation has enhanced the reputation of the College of Education at SQU as a higher educational institution, he added, with SQU being one of the few universities outside the US that has achieved NCATE Accreditation.
Other colleges within the university have also gained international recognition. For example, the College of Medicine and Health Sciences received academic accreditation from the Institute of Biomedical Science, UK, for five years starting from 2015. It also received accreditation for its Programme of Medicine for 10 years from the Association of Medical Education in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (AMEEMR). The College of Nursing also received global level accreditation from Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), which is an international accreditation agency based in the US.
Meanwhile, the Department of Chemistry at the College of Science received academic accreditation from the Canadian Society of Chemistry for five years. The degree programmes in Biotechnology and Environmental Biology at the Department of Biology are accredited by the ASIIN, an accreditation agency for degree programmes in Engineering, Informatics, the Natural Sciences and Mathematics.
The College of Arts and Social Sciences received institutional accreditation from the German Foundation for Quality Assurance through the accreditation of academic programmes for six years, the maximum period that this institution has awarded for academic institutions in Germany and abroad.
The Department of Information Studies received academic accreditation for five years for its BA programmes in Management of Archives and Management of Information Institutions, from Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.
And finally, one of the newest but potentially most important faculties, the Department of Tourism, received a new academic accreditation from AQAS (Agency for Quality Assurance through Accreditation of Study Programmes) for five years. This department got its first academic accreditation in 2013 from The UN World Tourism Organization.
Looking to the future, research will play an important role. "In recent years, research at the university mainly focused on environment, biology, energy, non-renewable resources, humanities and social sciences, communications and information systems, materials, education, life and health sciences," Dr Ali said.
In terms of output, the university has produced 8,594 scientific publications since its inception in 1986. As at the 2016 cohort, the total number of graduates produced by the university has reached 49,560.
In the field of international cooperation, SQU has successfully built an extensive network of academic and research cooperation with many educational and research institutions abroad. From 2011 to 2016, a total of 1,322 institutions collaborated with the university from all around the world.
With the further education of the Sultanate at its core, the College of Education has a strong conviction that international accreditation enhances the international reputation not only of the college and the university but also of Oman's education system at large.
The vision is to have the college as a centre of excellence for teaching, counselling, and scientific research. "Distinguished student graduates will be sent to the teaching field and will serve as leaders of educational change and development in the Sultanate. Well-equipped teachers will definitely bring a change by delivering quality education at schools," Dr Ali concluded.