AL AIN // Ninety per cent of newly enrolled female students at UAE University (UAEU) turned up for their placement exams this week, againsth only 50 per cent of the men. The exams in English, maths, Arabic and IT must be completed by all new students before classes start on Sunday. Those students who miss the exams but turn up for class anyway will be streamed at a lower level and will need to take further exams at the end of the first semester before progressing.
Dr Maryam Salem al Marashad, the dean of students at UAEU, said men tended to reject places at university in favour of jobs at Government companies such as Etisalat, or with the army or police. "Men apply but they prefer to work rather than study ... women are more academically interested and believe in education and with that, their opportunities are better," she said. This year sees the highest proportion of female students at UAEU yet, with 2,450 women making up 70 per cent of the student body. It is a number that has been increasing year-on-year and the trend can be seen across all federal institutions.
"In the last 10 years, the students have had more options to specialise which has made this [university] a very popular choice," said Dr al Marashad. "Also, many of their parents graduated from here, which gives them a connection to the institution. "Over the last five years, our graduates have easily entered the workplace." The latest batch of students were addressed yesterday by female alumni as part of orientation week.
One of those women was Kholoud al Dhaheri, the UAE's first female judge and the GCC's second. "Always follow your goals, stand up for your rights and don't let anybody stand in your way," she told the students. "Be open to trying new things. Don't be afraid. Just be yourself. There is something special in all of us. Focus on your goals in life." Mariam Harib al Yousuf, the executive director of the policies and regulations division at Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, said she owed her success to the opportunities she was offered at UAEU, the country's oldest federal institution and the first to offer Masters and PhD programmes.
She completed undergraduate and post-graduate degrees at UAEU before heading to England to earn her PhD in the chemistry of medicinal plants. "I couldn't have had that opportunity to study abroad if it hadn't been for getting my master's here," she said. "I was in the first group of students to do a master's degree here and look, now there are PhDs. "There weren't the same opportunities to study abroad when I was at university like there are now, but I will send my children here, in spite of there being so many more universities in the country than when I was at school."
Dr Najwa al Hosani, the assistant professor at the department of curriculum and instruction in the faculty of education at UAEU, told the students she was the first female in her family to go to university. "I wanted to show them why women should study. I used to look at the students travelling on the UAEU bus when I was at school, just wondering when I'd finally be one of those students, when it was my turn."
Ali Salem al Dhaheri, a former student of the UAEU who lives in Al Ain, came to the orientation session with his daughter, 17-year-old Rahma. She is his fifth daughter to attend the university, following in her sisters' footsteps to study medicine. "This university acknowledges women," said Mr al Dhaheri. "Sheikh Zayed has always given women the possibility to learn, to grow and get equal opportunities just like men."
Khadija al Murshedi, an 18-year-old first year student, said: "I was against joining a local university and would have preferred to travel abroad, but since coming to the orientation week, I'm sure I've made the right decision." Zayed University and Higher Colleges of Technology are still tabulating their attendance figures. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org