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Country is popular with Arabs who want to study abroad

Nearly half of Arab nationals would prefer to study aboard with the UAE being the fourth most popular place in the world to attend university, finds new survey.

ABU DHABI // The UAE is the fourth most popular destination for Arab nationals wanting to attend university abroad.

Nearly half of those questioned in a new survey said they would like to study abroad, and only the US, Canada and the UK place ahead of the UAE as a preferred destination for further education.

The Al Aan poll questioned 18-24-year-olds in 18 Arab countries on their attitudes to studying abroad.

"The UAE is known to be a politically stable, religiously tolerant, economically booming, innovative and exciting place with some strong universities and lots of potential job and internship possibilities," said Linda Angell, the director of international exchange at the American University of Sharjah.

"Many students study abroad in the UAE with the hope that they will establish professional network relationships that will aid them in finding a job or an internship within the region."

The survey found out of the 1,502 male and females questioned, 698 (46.5 per cent) would prefer to study outside their home country.

Noor AlGharibeh, 19, from Jordan, said she chose to study at the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) because of the quality and variety of education and the opportunity to study abroad.

"I felt like I could learn a lot from the people here, far more than anywhere else," the engineering student said.

"Also, I also came here because the engineering programme is all inclusive. It allows you to combine whatever aspects you want which makes your degree far more innovative. I'm trying to combine civil engineering, mechanical engineering, and design.

"I don't know where else I would get the opportunity to do that."

Almost three in five said safety and security was the top consideration in choosing a country.

Other important factors included standards of living, cost of living, availability of transport facilities and a stable government.

Ms Angell said that nearly 13 per cent of the American University of Sharjah's international students for the 2013-2014 academic year were Arab nationals.

The UAE is such a hugely multicultural and diverse place, home to so many families from all over the Arab-Islamic world," she said.

"Arab students often have family living in the UAE, so from that standpoint it makes sense to study abroad here. For one thing, it can be more affordable as they do not have to pay for dorm rooms, etc. Also, they can get to know their extended families better.

"Families of female Arab students may feel more comfortable having their daughters studying abroad in a place where they have family members."

"The UAE is filled with amazing opportunities," said NYUAD student Nahla Ibrahim, 20, from Alexandria, Egypt.

"The quality of education promised at the university and the prospect of being in a country where history is still being written was what drew me here to the UAE.

"I benefited so much from studying in the US for a year during high school on an exchange students programme, so I wanted to to go back but being that far away from home for four years wasn't something I wanted to do, so when I got accepted to NYUAD it was an easy decision to accept."

More than half those questioned said the UAE offered excellent or good quality of education (56 per cent), while half thought the UAE had an excellent or good availability of international universities and reputed universities.

The most popular courses were business management and administration (30.3 per cent), IT (24.2 per cent) and engineering (20.3 per cent).

Quality of education, availability of financial support, innovative teaching methods and experienced faculty members top the list of what students are looking for when picking their first choice of university.

"Coming to the UAE to study would be the first step to building a life in the country for students. The second step would be to nail down a job and jump start a career, the path from there is endless," said Dana Shadid, a project manager at Al Aan TV.

jbell@thenational.ae

* With additional reporting by Sachi Leith

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