Exchange programs in Islamic finance education

Due to the rapid growth of Islamic finance, Islamic banks and financial institutions are on the lookout for qualified individuals with an excellent measure of personal flexibility, encompassing an ability to reach a compromise, focus and succeed through challenging times. This need clearly defines the important role of universities which nowadays should go an extra mile to help their students and academicians grow in every possible dimension. Universities can now contribute the most by serving as the bridge that connects students to the other aspects of the Islamic finance ecosystem. One way to enhance their professional and interpersonal skills is providing students and academicians with the benefits of exchange programs.

There are different exchange programs offering the benefits of student exchange program scholarships, which lessen the overall financial burden on students. For example, the Erasmus exchange program (Eramus+) is an EU program that promotes exchange programs for students and academic staff to encourage them to gain experience in different countries and higher education institutions. Eramus+ also provides grants to cover the cost for participants.

Another famous exchange program particularly for Islamic finance education is the Mevlana exchange program that facilitates the exchange of students and academic staff between Turkish higher education institutions and the higher education institutions of other countries which has been made possible with the regulation published on the 23rd August 2011. The program includes all higher education institutions throughout the world without discriminating between geographical borders. Students may study abroad for one (minimum) or two (maximum) terms and academic staff may lecture abroad from one week (minimum) to three months (maximum). Accordingly, students and academic staff from any country may benefit from this program hosted by Turkish higher education institutions in order to study or lecture.

The benefits of exchange programs can be classified into three categories as follows:
1) Educational
i) International learning and knowledge propel students and academic staff toward acceptance and understanding of an array of different cultural and community perspectives
ii) Language acquisition is achieved through practical immersion
iii) Awareness and adoption of alternative, multifaceted approaches to learning
iv) Analytical and problem-solving skills, and
v) Enhanced interest in global issues as well as broader general knowledge.

2) Professional
i) Students and academicians who go on to tertiary education find themselves more comfortable in ‘foreign’ environments
ii) Prospective employers in the Islamic finance sector look favorably on experience gained while living overseas and knowledge obtained of another language and culture, and
iii) Increased pressure to communicate and relate to others helps to develop an awareness of group dynamics and personal sensitivity toward others.

3) Personal
i) Self-development and awareness leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem. This is often the most noticeable change in exchange students who have returned
ii) Maturity and social poise, fueled by the necessity to confront challenges outside a familiar support network and comfort zone
iii) Integration into another family as well as the development of life-long friendships, fostering an appreciation of home and family, and
iv) The tremendous sense of accomplishment upon completion encourages individuals to develop independent opinions, make informed decisions and strive to attain fresh goals.

Dr Kamola Bayram is the project director at the International Council of Islamic Finance Educators. She can be contacted at [email protected]