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Omani scientists will benefit from a new research council, new science and technology institutions as well as increasing cooperation with scientists abroad, revealed education minister Yahya bin Saud bin Mansour last week.

The measures are part of the country's new 15-year strategy for higher education and scientific research, unveiled as Gulf education ministers met in Muscat, Oman, on 14–16 January.

The new scientific research council will prepare science policy, advise the government on technological issues and promote national, regional and international science cooperation, as well as capacity building.

As part of the strategy, more colleges will be turned into science and technology institutions — six have already been transformed this way.

International cooperation will also be boosted. The plan will grant more annual scholarships for studying abroad, and promote further collaboration between Oman's science institutions and those of other Arab, Islamic, and western, countries.

The future Omani-German University of Technology is a first step in this direction.

Due to open in Muscat in September, the institution will offer European Union-recognised degrees in mechanical engineering, applied geosciences and information technology science.


It was brought about by private Omani investors, the higher education ministry, and West Germany's Rhine-Westphalia Technical College.

The strategy shows "enormous commitment and wisdom" on the part of Oman's leaders, said David W. Chapman, a professor at the University of Minnesota, who was in the international team that advised Oman's new plan. 

"At a time that oil resources are declining, this higher education plan represents an important step in establishing a knowledge-based Omani society that is less dependent on oil revenues and more dependent on the knowledge and skills of the Omani people," he told SciDev.Net.

Abdallah Daar, an Omani scientist at the University of Toronto (see Omani wins UNESCO prize for ethics in science) said the move fitted with 'Vision 2020', Oman's blueprint for economic development to build an advanced Omani society based on modern sciences and knowledge.

"It will provide the necessary scientific workforce and international technological expertise for Oman's development as well as other developing countries," he said.

Daar added that Oman's location, close to the Arabian Peninsula, India and Iran, makes it well placed to be a center of scientific and technological research for the region.