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Emirati men prefer private universities

UAE Students

By Melanie Swan

Because private universities offer more freedom for part time and older students, Emirati men continue to outnumber women at those institutions in Dubai, according to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the emirate’s education regulator.

Last year, 55 per cent of Emirati students were men, with the percentage rising to 57 this year. This compares unfavourably to the three federal universities, where only 30 per cent of students are men.

Prof Abdullah Al Shamsi, head of the British University in Dubai, said private universities allow men to study part time, and federal universities do not admit them more than two years after finishing high school.

“The men choose to go and work in the army, the police or the government and so when they choose to go into higher education, they want to continue working,” he said. “There isn’t this option at the federal institutions.”

Prof Muthanna Razzaq, president of American University in the Emirates, agreed with the reasoning. Of this term’s student body, 69 per cent are Emirati and 59 per cent of them are male. e said the university’s flexible class times attract high numbers of male students.

“We have evening, morning and weekend courses which allows the students to study around their work and their shifts.”

As was the case last year, the number of Emiratis continuing with higher education in Dubai is increasing. UAE citizens represent 43.2 per cent of the total higher education student population, 22,694 of 52,586 students enrolled. Both last year and this year, there has been a 10 per cent increase year-on-year compared to the past three years. Prof Al Shamsi said this was probably due to an increase in population and more demand for higher education.

There are 57 higher education institutions in the emirate, four of which provide vocational education. Only one per cent of Emiratis choose vocational paths.

Prof Al Shamsi, himself Emirati, said: “It continues to be seen as of a lower status and people want to get a Bachelor’s degree,” he said.

Enrolment of Emiratis is highest at locally owned private universities such as the British University in Dubai, where 53 per cent of students are Emirati. Federal universities have 41 per cent, international branch campuses 5 per cent and vocational schools 1 per cent.

Business remains the dominant subject with 44 per cent of students enrolled compared to just 0.4 per cent in natural and physical sciences, 7 per cent in law, 9 per cent in engineering, 1 per cent in tourism and 3 per cent in health and medicine.

The figures are similar at the American University in the Emirates, Prof Razzaq said, where most Emiratis study business.

“It’s simply about what’s available,” Prof Al Shamsi said. “There are no proper schools in tourism and engineering, so that’s why enrolment is small in those areas. Until there is more of a balance, we will continue to have a great number going to business.”

Seventy-one per cent of all students are studying for a Bachelor’s degree.

The report shows healthy growth in Dubai, an area seen as an educational hub with the most international branch campuses in the world. About half of Dubai’s more than 52,000 students come from Arabian Gulf countries. (The National)

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