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'I never applied to Paris - the quality is higher here'

Students of the Sorbonne University pay tribute to campus after collecting their degrees, say they get more attention and enjoyed the experience.

ABU DHABI // For Aude Touraine, studying at Sorbonne University's main campus was never an option - she had her sights set on Abu Dhabi. Ms Touraine, 22, was among the first 70 students to graduate from Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi yesterday, leaving with a bachelor's degree in geography. She said she moved from France to Abu Dhabi because she believed that the standard of education was better.

"The quality is so much higher here, because there aren't that many students yet, so we are given more attention," she said. The majority of the students come from North Africa and the Middle East. One third are UAE-based. Sorbonne's Abu Dhabi campus has also attracted a number of European students. "I never even applied to Paris Sorbonne," said Ms Touraine. "I wanted to come here from the beginning because I wanted to study in an Arab country so I can live a different experience, and I would like to continue working here."

Ms Touraine also started her master's programme in Urban Planning. For one of the oldest graduates, Raja Sibai, 60, from Lebanon, who finished a master's programme in urban planning, entering a new field is never too late. After spending four decades as an interior designer, a diplomat and then enrolling in university for a second time to study industrial psychology when she was 50, Miss Sibai decided to move into contracting and urban planning.

"I moved to Abu Dhabi five years ago and started my own contracting company, which was a completely new field for me, but I had to move to where the development is or else I will not develop," she said. As she continued to work in the construction field, she decided to become more specialised and studied urban planning. "Although I did not come from an engineering programme, I came third in my class," said Miss Sibai.

Her next step is to apply for a PhD in Urban Planning. "I will continue learning and moving forward until I die," she added. Professor George Molinie, the president of the Sorbonne, said the goal behind the university was to build bridges between the UAE and France as an international partnership. It was also intended to provide a field for professional and social growth to run side by side with the activities of the post-fuel era in the Middle East, he said.

Twenty three graduates finished master's programmes in teaching French as a foreign language, marketing, management and communication, urban and regional planning, business and languages. Twenty two finished bachelor's degrees in archaeology, the history of art, French and comparative literature, geography and urban planning, international affairs, international business and languages, philosophy and sociology.

There were also 110 students who completed the intensive French programme. Those who finished their first-year master's programme received a university diploma in addition to diplomas in international law, diplomacy and international relations. hdajani@thenational.ae

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