MVR 537.8 million was paid out to private institutions over the last four years as part of the previous administration’s free first-degree programme, with a total of MVR 695 million spent between 2019 and February of last year, it has been revealed.

The programme, launched under the Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration, had the stated intention of providing free first-degree education for first-time students

The information received public prominence after a member of the public, Ismail Afrah, filed an information request, under the Right to Information Act, with the Ministry of Higher Education.

According to statistics obtained by Afrah, two universities and nine colleges received payouts for participating students.

Fees for the first-degrees over the last four years were broken down as:

InstitutionNumber of Students FundedTotal Funding Received (MVR)
Maldives National University4,504138.8 million
Islamic University of Maldives94218.5 million
Avid College1,30752.7 million
Clique College34111.2 million
Cyrix College36015.2 million
Maldives Business School2,43983.6 million
Mandhu College2347 million
Maps College99732.5 million
Mainz International College2,842106.2 million
Villa College4,522172.6 million
Zikura International College1,92856.7 million

Villa College, a private institution closely affiliated with prominent businessman and Member of Parliament (MP) for Maamigili, Qasim Ibrahim, was paid the highest amount totalling MVR 172.6 million. Ibrahim, leader of the Jumhooree Party (JP), currently chairs the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee and serves as a member of the committees on National Security Services and Human Rights and Gender.

The state-run Maldives National University (MNU) received the second highest payout with 138.8 million.

Afrah shared the statistics on social media, even as the Senior Deputy Leader of the administration aligned People’s National Congress (PNC)’s Parliamentary Group—and MP for Baarashu—Ibrahim Shujau, criticised the programme, describing it as a “scam.”