Since the early 1970’s and with the beginning of Oman’s Renaissance, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s directives was to provide Education for all. This famous statement illustrates His Majesty’s commitment to Education: "Let there be learning, even under the shade of trees".
In the light of the rapid development at the global and local level, the preparation of well-educated and qualified young generations at highest levels was and continues to be an urgent need. These generations are required to obtain competencies of dealing with international standards, modern technology and booming knowledge in all fields. The Sultanate aims to obtain graduates of academics, scientists and researchers that shall contribute locally and internationally.
The focus on higher education in the Sultanate started from the very beginning of the Renaissance. In the 1970s, the Department of Knowledge was established to plan for the scholarships of Omani school graduates. It aimed to send young Omanis to various countries for their higher education. As a result, the sultanate was able to have graduates from diversified cultures that were able to hold positions to contribute to the development of Oman.
The Higher Education Institutions in the Sultanate started to emerge in the early 1980s with the establishment of the Banking Institute of Oman in 1983 (currently the College of Banking and Financial Studies) to provide the necessary human resources to join the banking sector. In 1984, the Colleges of Teachers (currently the Colleges of Applied Sciences) were established to provide the Sultanate with diploma graduate teachers to participate in the education of the rising nation.
In the same year 1984, the Industrial Technical College (currently the Higher Technical College) was inaugurated to meet the needs of the local market. The same period also included the establishment of some Health Institutes for the preparation of Omani nurses to work in government hospitals. Nevertheless, the Institute of Forensic Justice, Preaching and Guidance (currently the College of Sharia Sciences) was established in 1986 to prepare qualified judges and preachers.
The educational march was culminated in the inauguration of the Sultan Qaboos University in 1986. The University have achieved international standards being recognized as one of the distinctive regional universities. During His Majesty’s visit to the Sultan Qaboos University for the opening of the Cultural Center on the 18th of December 2010, HM praised both government and private sector’s efforts to fulfill the requirements of Education.
Since its establishment under the Royal Decree No. (2/1994), the Ministry of Higher Education has been working to promote higher education in the Sultanate in both government and private sectors. Higher education has expanded in the second half of the 1990s with the announcement of the Royal Decree No. (18/96). As a result, private universities and colleges are now distributed geographically among the regions and governorates of the Sultanate providing variety of programs in all levels: diploma, bachelors and masters covering a wide range of specializations in professional, technical and administrative fields. Aiming to meet the needs of the comprehensive development and the labor market, these higher education institutions demands qualified academics and staff bearing in mind international accreditation standards.
Students' admission and distribution processes into government and private higher education institutions is organized through the Unified Admission Center established by the Royal Decree No. (104/2005). The Center is supervised by the Ministry of Higher Education and performs in secured IT systems to ensure advanced scales of transparency and fairness.
Since its establishment, the Center has contributed to linking databases and statistics of all institutions and students of higher education. The Center was ranked in the WSA World Award -Venice 2007 among the top five institutions for its projects in electronic domain. It has also received many other regional and international awards.
Since that, institutions of higher education follow several bodies and the process of policy development and coordination of procedures among these institutions is necessary, it was inevitable to assign this task to the Higher Education Council established by the Royal Decree No. (65/98). Later, the Royal Decree No. (48/2012) was issued to replace the Higher Education Council with the Education Council. This gave the Council validity and authorization to formulate the educational strategy in all its forms and levels including school education and higher education.
The Ministry of Higher Education provides through the Department of Equalization of Qualifications and Recognition the services of certification, equivalence and recognition of institutions, academic programs, and academic certificates. This process is done in alignment with the six Cultural Attache offices in (Washington, London, Kuala Lumpur, Amaan-Jordan, Abu Dhabi, and Cairo) and Oman’s Consulate General in Melbourne. These entities also provide guidance for Oman students studying abroad. These offices also liaise with Omani students and universities for admission. In addition, financial, security and moral matters are also part of its responsibilities toward the Omani students abroad.
In 2010, a Royal Decree No. (45/2010) was issued for the establishment of the Omani Academic Accreditation Authority to replace the Accrediting Council, having its own legal, financial and administrative independence, and follows the Education Council. The creation of the Authority was in line with the process initiated by the former Accrediting Council to strengthen the spread of quality and accreditation of higher education institutions and programs. The main target is to maintain international standards among graduates to compete and participate in the labor market and society.
The development of higher education has always been parallel to the scientific research activity endeavored to develop the scientific research in all aspects of life. Therefore, the establishment of the Scientific Research Council by the Royal Decree No. (54/2005) represented an important milestone at various scientific, economic, and social domains. In addition to its role in the development of human capabilities, it is a key focus in stimulating creativity and innovation, building and developing industries and contributing to the knowledge-based economy. Within the framework assigned to the Council, it formulates a national strategy that will determine the scientific research and development of the Sultanate in link with the continuous development needs. Nevertheless, the Council supports several research and innovation programs aimed to qualify young researchers and research initiatives.