Investment in Mankind: IsDB’s Scholarship Programme

By HE Dr. Bandar Hajjar,
President of Islamic Development Bank

During my visits to member countries (MCs) and Muslim communities in non-MCs, I have always been keen to meet with brothers and sisters who have received scholarships from the Bank and are working in various sectors within their countries. Some of them, in leading positions in those sectors. I feel proud and happy as I listen to their success stories and what they have achieved for themselves, their communities and their countries, thanks to Almighty Allah, and then to the support provided by IsDB to complete their studies and to head towards success.

It is investment in human capital that builds nations. Mankind is the focus of development. For this reason, the IsDB launched the scholarship programme in 1983 at the bachelor's level at the beginning, then expanded its scope to include Masters, Ph.D and post-doctoral research. During the last 37 years of the programmme’s existence, 17,000 male and female students from 51 MCs and 59 Muslim communities in non-MCs received scholarships in various disciplines.

In 2018, the programme was evaluated and restructured to accommodate the rapid changes taking place in the world driven by unprecedented technological progress. The programme moved to a new stage of development that included the following aspects:

First, the creation of a website to receive scholarship applications. This has led to an increase in the number of applicants from 2,200 in 2018 to 187,000 in 2019 from 192 countries, and to 210,000 in 2020 from 193 countries.

Second, concluding agreements with the world most prestigious universities, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Queen Mary in the United Kingdom, McGill University in Canada, Copenhagen in Denmark, Campus France in France, the Moroccan International Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Higher Education in Malaysia, and the Supreme Council of Universities in Turkey. Contacts are ongoing with King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, some American universities, and charitable foundations and funds, such as the Islamic Solidarity Fund and others. These contacts resulted in an increase in the number of scholarships from 280 to 1,200 within the same budget, as universities bear part or all of the tuition fees.

Third, linking disciplines with sustainable development goals. In this context, partnership was established between the Bank and the International Academy of Sciences in Italy, which was established by the Pakistani Professor Abdul Salam, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics. The Academy is concerned with linking science to development. Eighteen (18) disciplines have been selected, all of which are linked to the SDGs.

Fourth, appointing selection committees for the scholarship applicants from outside the Bank to ensure impartiality in the selection process in a way that guarantees admission of applicants to the best universities.

Fifth, to help students prepare for their future leadership role in the development of their communities and countries, a programme has been launched to provide the necessary orientation to our students during their studies. Under this programme, outstanding performance prizes are awarded annually to selected students on the basis of excellence in their studies and participation in orientation and mentoring activities.

Sixth, the Bank is in the process of structuring a platform for graduates to ensure their interaction, professional development, and exchange of ideas, success stories and best practices. This platform will play a vital role in promoting the science-based economy in MCs and Muslim communities in non-MCs. In other words, this platform will focus on mobilising global scientific and technological expertise to find scientific solutions for sustainable development and to implement new projects conducive to economic growth and sustainable development.

In recognition of their contribution to the development of their communities, the Bank will grant graduates, who develop innovative projects that have direct impact in addressing a specific issue in their countries or in one of the MCs, an initial funding of US$ 50 thousand each to enhance entrepreneurial activities among graduates and enable them to contribute actively to economic and social development in their countries and communities. As an incentive for graduates’ high- performance in serving their communities, their research projects will be protected by IsDB intellectual property.

In the face of the challenges posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the entry of at least 40 million young men and women into the labour market annually worldwide, including 10 million in the MCs, the Bank is required to continuously develop the program and transfer successful experiences from one country to another.