Maldives has maintained its distinct identity for centuries by speaking the same language and belonging to one religion, Islam, despite the wide geographic distribution of the population. Maldives is a new democracy, with the first multiparty election held in 2008. With a population of approximately 300,000, higher education options have been limited and those who wanted to pursue university degrees generally traveled overseas to do so, mostly to the Middle East, Australia, and Malaysia, often with generous scholarships.
Maldives National University, inaugurated on February 15, 2011, was previously known as the Maldives College of Higher Education, which was established on January 1, 1999, as part of a restructuring and rationalization of all government-run post-secondary education. Operating under the aegis of the Department of Higher Education and Training, Maldives National University is the only public degree-granting institution in the country. The university offers a range of degrees, diplomas and certificates with particular emphasis on engineering, health science, education, tourism and management. The average enrollment at Maldives National University is approximately 4,000 students in long-term programs that extend over one academic year and approximately 2,000 students for short-term courses.
The establishment of the first official university enables more students to receive higher education in country. Maldives continues to rely on foreign workers at many levels, including some at professional levels. The continued development of the country requires the existence of a university-educated population who can contribute to the growth of a professional class.
Fulbright grantees to Maldives will require flexibility, patience, and adaptability in order to help make the most of challenging conditions--including receiving host government approval, finalizing affiliations, and securing housing--in an energized environment. However, Fulbright Scholars have the opportunity to contribute to a new higher education system.
Priorities for the U.S.-Maldivian relationship include supporting democratic institutions and values, economic development, and environmental sustainability.