ABU DHABI // Engineering students at applied technology schools will be able to complete a year of their bachelor's degree while in Grade 12.
The move is part of a partnership between the Institute of Applied Technology and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT).
It will allow Grade 12 students at the institute's Applied Technology High Schools (Aths) to earn up to a year's worth of advanced placement credits towards a four-year bachelor's degree in engineering.
More than 940 students across all Aths campuses will be able to apply for the programme this September.
It will help Emiratis to enter the workplace sooner by reducing their higher education to three years and eliminating the need for a foundation year.
Currently, 95 per cent of the Emirati pupils entering federal universities spend up to two years in remedial programmes.
"It is a way to motivate students to work harder," said Dr Mark Drummond, the provost of HCT. "If they complete those courses and degree requirements at high school, then they can move into work faster."
Students opting for the Bachelor of Applied Science 1+3 programme will have to take extra liberal studies and technology courses alongside their high school syllabus.
Those in engineering science can earn up to 30 credits, and applied engineering students at least 21 credits.
Some supplementary courses will be taught by HCT educators.
To pass they also have to score a 5.0 in the International English Language Testing System and may also have to take external exams, such as the SAT for mathematics.
Aths had to align its courses with subjects taught at the institute before the programme could be introduced.
Mr Drummond said the greater responsibility for high school campuses meant more Emiratis could graduate without putting a strain on the college's budget.
"We will be able to increase the number of students we graduate in three years," he said. "There will be 25 per cent more places at the colleges without any additional government spending."
The colleges will also be able to reduce spending on remedial programmes. About 30 per cent of federal universities' budgets are taken up by such courses.
Dr Abdullatif Al Shamsi, managing director of the institute, said students opting for the programme needed to be fully committed.
"We are not graduating them with high school outcomes any more," said Dr Al Shamsi.
"We have upped the standards of our courses because we want to set them up for success."
The institute's schools were established in 2005 to provide advanced technical education that was not being offered at other government schools.
The aim was to train Emiratis for careers in science and engineering. The schools take a hands-on approach to teaching and focus on English language, citizenship and life-skills education.
Mr Drummond said the system was not uncommon in places such as the US, where students use a fourth year to complete a master's programme.
Imad Al Talbi, acting principal of the Aths girls campus in Abu Dhabi, said the programme would push students to achieve more.
"A lot of the pupils are interested," Mr Al Talbi said. "They see the opportunity that has opened to them and will put in the extra hours to earn those credits."
Students have been told they will have to take courses on Saturday, but he said his students were geared up for the additional work.
"Here all our subjects prepare them for university work, so they are already motivated," Mr Al Talbi said.
Mariam Khalfan, a Grade 9 pupil at the Abu Dhabi campus, said she liked the idea of attaining a degree in three years.
"It will be more work so I do not know yet how I will manage my time," Mariam said.
"I do not want to waste one year doing a foundation course, so I will try."