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Free degree programme not a scam, don't stop it: MDP

The free degree programme was initiated by former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration, where MDP was the ruling party.

Ameera Osmanagic
10 July 2024, MVT 09:27
MP Mauroof speaking at the press briefing held by MDP's parliamentary group today --
Ameera Osmanagic
10 July 2024, MVT 09:27

Opposition party and former ruling party Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has raised concerns over comments made by ruling party People's National Congress (PNC) member and MP of Baarashu constituency Ibrahim Shujau who described the free degree programme initiated by former president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration as a scam.

The free degree programme, which allows students to complete their first Bachelor's Degree with financial assistance from the government, had over 15,000 students in the programme according the previous government.

Speaking on the bill to amend the Higher Education Act, Shujau said that the prices of the courses covered under the free degree program had been reduced to 60 percent in return for providing a subsidy. This, he claims, caused financial loss to colleges, leading to some having to be shut down.

Following Shujau's comments, MDP's parliamentary group held a press conference, where Kendhoo MP Mauroof Zakir denied allegations that the programme is a scam and urged the government to not discontinue it.

"[We] request that the free degree programme be continued in its proper form. It is very important and tied to the future of many youth," Mauroof said.

According to the information provided to Afrah Ismail, a member of the public who submitted a Right to Information (RTI) form to the Ministry of Higher Education, a total of MVR 695 million was spent on the free degree programme for 20,337 students by the government from the beginning of 2019 until 26th February.

This included two local universities and nine local colleges, with the highest expenditure being MVR 172.8 million for 4,522 students at Villa College.

Maldives National University (MNU) came in second, receiving MVR 138.8 million for 4,504 students, while MI College received MVR 106.2 million for 2,842 students, placing it third.

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