Universities have cut tuition fees and increased the number of scholarships in a bid to make tertiary education more affordable. Some colleges have set up discount programmes while others have established grants, scholarships and other incentives to support students whose parents may have lost their jobs or have had their salaries and incomes reduced.
Students with limited financial resources and a minimum average of 70 per cent on their high school results can receive a discount of up to 50 per cent on their tuition at Abu Dhabi University (ADU) through its Sanabil financial aid programme. Those already studying at ADU with a minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 2.5 a semester are also being offered discounts of up to 50 per cent on tuition.
Students applying for the programme need to demonstrate evidence of financial need, which will be investigated by the university before approval is given. They have to maintain a GPA of at least 2.5 to continue to receive the discount and dedicate 20 hours a semester, not including the summer term, to some form of charitable volunteer work off-campus. In March, the board of trustees of the American University of Sharjah (AUS) approved more than Dh70 million (US$19m) in student grants for this year.
Peter Heath, the chancellor of AUS, said that was an increase of more than Dh2m from last year. The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) recently doubled its scholarship fund to US$3m. "We also introduced an early 10 per cent payment discount to all our new students," said Raymi van der Spek, the vice president for administration at UOWD. Mr van der Spek said UOWD also offered reduced residence fees and a free shuttle bus service to metro stations.
Some university administrators said they were afraid that lowering tuition fees would lead to lower educational standards. "There is evidence to show that discounting fees can lead to lower quality offerings and we are committed to quality," said Professor John Grainger, the pro-vice chancellor at Murdoch University in Dubai. "For this reason we have not lowered our tuition fees in the current market."
But Prof Grainger said the school had found other ways to help students meet their educational costs. "We have recently entered into an agreement with Mashreqbank to assist students in obtaining student loans for tuition fees, subject to certain conditions," he said. "This partnership helps spread the financial burden for families over a reasonable timeline." Students taking advantage of the loans from Mashreqbank will also be granted a 15 per cent discount on tuition fees from the university.
Another common incentive offered by some higher learning institutions in the Emirates is a discount plan for families who send more than one student to the same school. Al Ain University of Science and Technology offers a 20 per cent discount for second and third siblings enrolled at the university. Colleges are also offering academic, targeted, sports and other forms of grants and scholarships. firstname.lastname@example.org