Economic slowdown leads to surge in applications for postgraduate studies

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 18 May 2016

A quarter of professionals in the Middle East are planning to take a postgraduate course within the next two years, survey finds

Universities in the GCC say they have received an increased number of applications for post-graduate studies from oil and gas professionals who are seeking to re-train because of the slowdown in the sector.
Further study was always on the agenda of most professionals, but the economic situation in the region caused by the collapse of the price of oil has exacerbated the trend, with talent from all sectors seeking further education, according to GulfTalent.
The online recruitment firm surveyed 8,000 professionals across the Middle East and spoke to universities too. They found that a quarter of professionals in the region intend to take a post-graduate course in the next two years. The biggest motivation for further study was to gain a better job with a different employer in the same field. Many professionals were also motivated to study in order to gain a promotion, and a further 10 per cent expressed a desire to change to a new industry.
“If candidates can afford and spare the time to further educate themselves and bring more to the table, then that can only be a good thing,” says Sophie Wolfinden, HR consultant at Charterhouse. “In an increasingly tough market, with stiff competition, it is essential that candidates do all they can to stand out and stay ahead of the game. Studying for a degree or even higher qualification demonstrates two things to future employers; firstly that you are capable of working hard to achieve your goals; and, secondly, that you are fully committed to your chosen field.”
However, some employers interviewed by GulfTalent said that advanced studies do not always make a candidate more attractive, and that relevant practical experience is considered more important. Conversely, many employers demand relevant post-graduate qualifications for certain roles. Many also actively support their staff in achieving post-graduate qualifications.
Once all that newly qualified talent enters the job market, they could look further abroad for work if the economy hasn't picked up. “I think the GCC may lose some talent with the slowdown in the market, however it is also a time for organisations to restructure and make beneficial changes to their long-term plans,” says Wolfinden. “Also, because of the attractions of this region and in particular the attractions of the UAE lifestyle, there will always be a steady flow of fresh talent pouring in. If the percentage of highly qualified workers increases in the region, then standards for recruiting new people will surely advance. This would result in a highly qualified and, hopefully, productive workforce overall. How this talent is utilised in each organisation will really come down to how effective their HR team is.”
The most popular courses offer an online study element, and the most sought-after subjects are business administration, followed by engineering, then finance, education, HR, IT and marketing. Wolfinden advises: “In a market where CVs are having to be skim-read quickly by hiring managers, you need to pick a subject that stands out as relevant and is easily understood.”