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British universities in UAE hope for fees windfall

British universities in the UAE are hoping that forthcoming fee increases in the UK will mean more students remain in the UAE to study.

DUBAI // British universities in the UAE are hoping that forthcoming fee increases in the UK will mean more students remain in the UAE to study.

Many British students living with families in the Emirates travel back to the UK for university. But with university fees in the UK due to increase to a maximum of 9,000 (Dh51,400) a year - the new cap - from September next year, universities in the UAE may persuade more students to stay.

There are three British university campuses in the UAE - Middlesex, Heriot-Watt and Bolton. Others, such as Strathclyde and the Manchester Business School, offer business programmes.

Prof Raed Awamleh, the director of Middlesex University's Dubai campus, said the rise in UK fees could mean more university students stay in the UAE, or even draw some from the UK to British campuses here.

The Middlesex campus at Dubai Knowledge Village has only 84 British students - 5 per cent of its student body. Its fees are Dh46,000 a year. "The proposed fee increases in the UK will certainly have wide implications, including [for] students seeking more economical study alternatives outside the UK," Prof Awamleh said.

"This new situation may make studying overseas attractive to UK students looking to experience a British higher education outside the UK, with the additional international exposure that brings."

Last month the UK parliament approved a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government proposal to increase the cap on tuition fees at English universities from 3,290 to a new maximum of 9,000 a year. The debate was marked by violent protests outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

Michael Clarke, the head of management and the languages department at Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said the rises would make studying here more attractive for British students.

At Dh35,000 a year, Heriot-Watt's fees are lower than other UK and international campuses in the UAE, and are projected to rise by about 2.7 per cent a year, in line with inflation.

"Prices here have to remain the same, which will mean they will be on a par with the average 6,000 fees in the UK. It makes it an even playing field now," Mr Clarke said.

Zubair Hanslot, the academic director at the RAK campus of the University of Bolton, said they had received many more inquiries from the UK since the announcement of an increase in the fee cap.

Although Bolton's UAE fees are currently higher - 5,500 in RAK, against the maximum 3,290 in the UK - he said the extra expense could be justified by the experience of studying abroad.

However, the UK's Student Loans Company, a public sector organisation that provides financial services to more than a million students each year, will not lend to those pursuing non-UK based degrees, which Mr Hanslot admitted could be a problem.

Tim Carnley, from Education UK, a division of the British Council that helps international students to find university places in the UK, was sceptical as to whether the fee increases would see more Britons attending UK universities in the UAE.

However, he suggested the economics were different for UK students whose families were already here, and who could therefore save money by continuing to live with their parents.

Theresa Roberts has been in the UAE for six years and her two children go to the British school, Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi. Her eldest daughter is two years away from university, and even with an increase in fees, she said her daughter planned to go to the UK. "I think the universities in England have a good name and I think that if they're applying for jobs, it really does matter which university they've been to."

mswan@thenational.ae

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