Federal universities will be able to cope with the record number of students starting courses in September, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research says. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak yesterday approved admissions to government universities and scholarships abroad for 13,315 Emiratis - 23 per cent more than last year's figure of 10,785. Every qualified student will be offered a place thanks to an injection of government funds announced by the Cabinet this week.
This contrasts with previous years when thousands of students who met admissions criteria were denied places because budgets could not accommodate them. UAE University will admit 3,355 students, the Higher Colleges of Technology 7,902 and Zayed University 1,558, while the Government will fund 500 overseas scholarships, including 150 for postgraduate studies. "We have to prepare now since the direction from His Highness the Prime Minister not to reject or deny any student who's eligible to enter higher education," Sheikh Nahyan said.
"It's a short time, we have to prepare for these extra students. We will definitely do our best to provide the necessary resources, staff, faculty and accommodation. I think we will be able to do it." Sheikh Nahyan, who is also President of Zayed University and Chancellor of UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology, spoke at the Federal National Council about the funding shortfall earlier this year.
He told members that budgets had failed to grow in line with inflation and the increase in student population. At Zayed University, the budget remained constant for six years, despite a 52 per cent increase in the number of students. "I feel very strongly about it and one would not expect it in the UAE that any student would be turned away and denied the chance to continue their education," Sheikh Nahyan said yesterday.
If the funding increase for this year had not been made, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research projections suggested fewer than 10,000 students would have been admitted to university, leaving more than 3,000 without a place. "You cannot imagine how pleased we are and how grateful to the Government," said Subha al Shamisi, the ministry's executive director for higher education and scientific research.
In a move that is aimed at permanently ending the funding shortfall, Sheikh Nahyan also revealed yesterday that a new formula linking budgets with student numbers had been approved and was likely to take effect from the 2009-10 academic year. "We have the confidence in His Highness the Prime Minister and the leadership of this country that this issue will finally be solved," Sheikh Nahyan said. Students received a text message from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research's National Admissions and Placement Office (Napo) yesterday confirming their places.
Sheikh Nahyan presented laptops to eight high-achieving students due to start at the Higher Colleges of Technology. One of the students, Ahmed al Marzoqi, 19, who averaged 92.3 per cent in his final-year examinations, is about to take up a place at Abu Dhabi Men's College to study for a bachelor's degree in business administration. "The laptop is very important because it will help the students to make projects and any homework and examinations we can do by using the laptop," said Mr Marzoqi, who aims to become a businessman after completing his degree.