Should Developing Countries Send Their Best Students Abroad?

By Elizabeth Melampy

Iraq’s Higher Committee for Education Development (HCED), established in 2009, provides scholarships for promising students to study at foreign universities, mainly in the US. In 2015 alone, HCED has a budget of $125 million. This program is a long-term investment in improving Iraq’s public sector efficiency and stability; educating the brightest students abroad in the best universities, where they can benefit from new perspectives and better education, will pay off when the students return to Iraq’s public sector. Thus, ensuring that students return home and enter public service is key to the success of this investment. Convincing these students to return home, however, can prove challenging when employment prospects in Iraq seem limited.

There are many critiques of this type of program, especially in a fragile, post-conflict context like Iraq, where $125 million could certainly help fix more immediate domestic issues. For example, critics argue that the health sector in Iraq is in a dire need of money, and rerouting the HCED budget to the health sector could save lives. Why, then, is Iraq investing in this education program?

Road sign to  education and future

Many countries are investing in sending students abroad as a means of securing their national future.

Iraq is not alone in sending its best students to foreign universities.  Many developing countries have similar programs to educate students abroad with the expectation that they will return to work in the public sector. Countless world leaders have been educated in the U.S., and this trend of sending students abroad to developed countries to study is only growing. Continue reading