Girls at a school in Al Ain are getting a head start on the next stage of their education, starting their university courses while still at school.
Under a deal announced yesterday between Al Ain Women's College - part of the Higher Colleges of Technology - and the Abu Dhabi Education Council, 20 students at Al Zaydia Girls School will be allowed to enrol simultaneously in both.
They will spend their Saturdays earning university-level credit in subjects including photography and science. The girls were chosen from 50 nominated by the school, all with college-level English and in their final year at school.
Several schools applied to be part of the pilot scheme - first of its kind in the country - but the college has started off small with a school it has a working relationship with.
"We're confident this will take off with other schools," said Tim Smith, the director of Al Ain HCT. "I can't envisage any problems with it. Next we will be tying this up with the men's college."
The first class, in photography, was on Saturday. It was taught by staff from the women's college who have volunteered to work on their day off to get the project off the ground.
Mr Smith said it will help the girls make the transition to university life - while getting a head start on their courses.
It will also help their chances of admission, and allow them to complete their degrees sooner.
Dr Howard Reed, head of the Dubai Women's College, will be watching closely. He said a similar system is already in place in the US, where advanced students can complete as much as a year of college before they leave high school.
"It's a lot of pressure, but it's for the better students," he said. "Al Ain is looking at the students who might have difficulty adjusting to student life, but I would like to look at the students who may be a bit ahead of the pack and give them the chance to pick up the pace if they're ready."