15 April (The Conway Bulletin) – Azerbaijan is phasing out a programme that funded overseas study for undergraduates in order to save money during an increasing vicious economic downturn.
Mikhail Jabbarov, Azerbaijan’s minister of education, said funding for bachelor level programmes has dried up.
“The ministry is developing a new format of the program, which envisages education at foreign higher educational institutions only for PhD and Master’s Degrees,” Mr Jabbarov told media.
The government’s stated objective is to attract more foreign professors to Azerbaijan to allow undergraduates to receive high-level tuition without having to study abroad.
What the government cannot openly say is that the programme has become unsustainable because of a sharp drop in oil prices that has dragged down its economy.
The ministry of education’s overseas undergraduate programme is one of two channels that Azerbaijani youth can use to access scholarships to study abroad.
SOFAZ, the country’s oil fund, had also established an eight-year programme in 2007 to fund education abroad. But that programme is now being wound up and is unlikely to be extended.
In the first quarter of 2016, SOFAZ said it spent 5m manat ($3.3m) paying fees for Azerbaijanis studying abroad.
Analysts have said that if both programmes were cut, Azerbaijan would, effectively, be isolating itself from the West.
The government has already cut several domestic social projects, including updating broadband internet across the country and investments in care homes, roads and railways, to cut costs.
This story was first published in issue 276 of The Conway Bulletin. For a free trial of the region’s top independent newspaper, email firstname.lastname@example.org