University of Leicester
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Investing in Human Capital: The Contribution of Libyan Scholars Educated Abroad to Academic Institutions and Non-Academic Organisations

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posted on 2019-02-27, 10:28 authored by Osama Shtewi
This study aims to investigate the impact of human capital investment in Libya’s HE sector by focusing on the academic achievement and contribution of returning foreign-educated scholars. This achievement is assessed in the three dimensions of knowledge transmission (KT), knowledge dissemination (KD) and knowledge exchange (KE). The level of investment in knowledge has historically been extremely low in Libya, and the country’s economy remains heavily dependent upon non-renewable resources such as gas and oil. In recent decades, however, the government has sought to raise investment in Libya’s human capital by sponsoring scholars to study in foreign HEIs, but little is known about the return it is getting on this investment. No study has so far explored the contribution of returning scholars across all three dimensions of knowledge. The study employed a sequential mixed method design comprising two phases. In the first phase, a questionnaire survey was used first, to compare the performance of foreign- and home-educated scholars, and second, to compare the performance of scholars educated in developing and developed countries by gender, academic rank and discipline. This analysis was supplemented by the analysis of secondary data sources. In the second phase, semi-structured interviews were conducted to identify and further explore the factors affecting the contribution of the various scholar groups. The findings suggest that scholars educated in Libya and other developing countries contribute more in terms of KT and less in terms of KD, while those educated in developed countries contribute more in KD and KE. The findings suggest that the return on investment in the study abroad programme is greater when the knowledge gap between the home (Libya) and the host country is big. They also indicate that academic engagement with external stakeholders (e.g. through consultancy activities or holding temporary posts in industry) has much greater potential to impact on non-academic organisations than scholarly publication, which is seen more as the prerequisite for academic promotion than as a tool for driving socioeconomic progress. The study identifies several barriers to academic achievement that affect all scholars regardless of where they do their postgraduate study. These include the lack of educational infrastructure, sociocultural and political factors, differences in culture between academia and non-academic organisations and lack of funding. Women and social scientists, especially those educated in Libya and other developing countries, face additional barriers. Without changes in the educational infrastructure, scholarship programmes such as this are unlikely to achieve their goal of enhancing Libya’s human capital. The evidence in this study offers an empirical foundation for the necessary policy reform in the HE sector.



Wagner-Tsukamoto, Sigmund; Jackson, Peter

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Management

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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