Response to the increasing communication complaints in the King Abdullah Scholarship Program
This submission is prepared in response to the increasing complaints revolving around communication barriers between the Saudi students studying in Canada and the employees running the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) in Saudi Arabia. Over the past few decades, students have been alleging that complaints and queries sent to the program committee do not reach the intended recipient. Even if they reach the committee, the students rarely receive feedback. Therefore, this note is directed to the newly appointed head of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau (SACB) in Canada, Dr. Ali Mohammed. Besides, it contains recommendations on ways to improve the communications systems in place in a bid to ensure effective communication between the students and SACB.
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For the program to have smooth-running operations, it has to create an effective communication system between the students and the staff members at the ministry of higher education. Communication between the involved stakeholders is essential since it allows the students to air their grievances and offer recommendations. Therefore, an effective communication system is of great relevance since it will help the program managers in the formulation of strategies and policies to improve the program following reviews obtained from the beneficiaries.
Since the program was launched, students have had difficulties communicating with the administration committee to air their grievances and proposals. The following recommendations should be followed
- The creation of an official phone number that will be used by students to contact committee members directly
- The creation of a students’ portal to allow live online chats between students and the committee members
- Other alternatives would include the creation of an official email address
If well implemented, the three options will go a long way in addressing the issues revolving around communication barriers, which are evident in this case.
This submission recommends three significant courses of action to address the issue of barrier in communication that has been cited by students. Among the three identified courses of action, the most recommendable one is the creation of an official phone number to allow direct communication between the students and the committee members in Saudi Arabia. A phone call allows direct communication between the two parties, and it ensures that information reaches the intended recipient in time, and a direct response is obtained.
This aspect is a significant strength of the use of a phone instead of other options such as emails and students’ portal where there is no direct contact between the two parties. Text messages may not be responded to immediately, which may harm the students’ confidence in the communications method used by the program management.
The King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) was launched in 2005 by the then king of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, following the need to impart knowledge to local students. The students would, in turn, invest the acquired knowledge in development projects in the country. Since its establishment, the program has sponsored thousands of students to study abroad with the fees paid by the government through the program. Beneficiaries of this program get financial assistance from the government of Saudi Arabia to study in the best universities in the world and especially in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. The program empowers students to study for bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. programs in their fields of specialization.
The program was designed to respond to the rising need to achieve equal development opportunities with other nations in the world. The program was meant to sponsor academically qualified students to study in the world’s most reckoned institutions. Since its establishment, more than 200,000 Saudi students have benefited from the program. Besides, the program is set to benefit more students in the future. The program mostly sponsors students to study in the US due to the advanced nature of the education system in the region.
Establishment of a phone number
The board should consider establishing an official phone number that can be used by students to reach the committee members directly at any time. The phone number should be made accessible to all students living in Canada, and if possible, it should be toll-free. The established phone number should be publicized through the annual newsletters produced by the program management to make it known to students. The students should be notified of the official calling hours to avoid inconveniences.
Direct contact with students increases their confidence in the program’s communication system. Also, it ensures that the committee members get first-hand information regarding the students’ grievances. All the information received via calls from students should be executed immediately to recover the reputation of the program’s communication system. However, this option has one major challenge. The students might abuse this communication channel by making unimportant calls.
Establishing a student portal
The program managers should open a student portal that will be available for students studying abroad. The portal should be accessible to students upon opening an account on the program’s official website. Member logins should be given to each student and special priority accorded to replying to messages from such members. This move would ease the congestion that exists in the program’s online communication system since members would communicate with the management committee easily through the portal without having to visit Safeer too often.
The portal could avail an opportunity for students to chat live with support staff within the committee. This way, students will be relieved of the burden of relying on the online communication method, which is currently available, but ineffective and unreliable. The major disadvantage of this option is that students will be required to input their login details before accessing the site. This aspect means that users may be barred from using the service in case they lose their details, and cannot remember their recovery emails.
Other alternative communications methods would include having email addresses addressed directly to the management committee. Just like the office phone number, the email address should be made available to students. Besides, enough support staff should be employed to ensure that all messages are replied to in time. Students should be provided with special codes to include in the subject line for easy identification of their emails.
A website could also produce effective results, as it would avail a quick method of communicating with the committee members. The website could be designed in a way that allows the initiation of direct talks with a committee member online. The management of the website should be in the hands of the committee members or support staff to ensure that all messages are seen, and the students’ requests are executed in time. These alternatives have one setback, viz. they do not allow a direct response, as is the case of the phone call, where the caller receives a direct response.