ABU DHABI // Zayed University is considering allowing non-Emirati students to enrol in its programmes after the institution completes the construction of its new campus in 2011. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said the change was being considered to accommodate a growing number of secondary school graduates who are interested in the university's programmes.
Thomas Cochran, the Zayed University's chief of staff, said the campus in central Abu Dhabi was "bursting at the seams", and the school had placed a "soft cap" on the number of students who could attend because of budget and space restrictions. Work is due to start soon on the new campus near Abu Dhabi International Airport. "In Abu Dhabi, we've exceeded our capacity," he said. "We can't take on any more students than we have."
But the new campus may be able to accommodate both the growing number of Emirati women seeking a university education and foreign students. The school would first look at prospective candidates from other GCC states, Mr Cochran said. It could also open to non-GCC expatriate residents who had spent a part of their education in UAE secondary schools, and to foreign students who applied from abroad.
"This is a conversation that's been going on for the last couple of years," Mr Cochran said. "These are longer term plans. Nothing concrete has been put into place." The university was established in 1998 with the mission to educate Emirati women for professional careers and jobs in civil service. A branch for men in the military was opened in Sweihan last February. Mr Cochran said the university was "test marketing" the idea of allowing foreign students."This may be a sensitive issue, that's why we want to do this carefully."
Allowing expatriate students would not be a completely new concept. Last autumn, the university admitted a handful of non-Emirati women after plans to create an international programme fell through. Those students pay tuition and other fees. "Last year, we took a pretty serious look at opening international colleges but we decided that it was a bit premature to push for a full-blown international education so we took a step back from that," he said.
The six students who applied for that programme were invited to attend the university at its Dubai and Abu Dhabi campuses. Zayed University was recently granted international accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the first non-American university to achieve such a standing. The accreditation was granted at the end of a five-year process that examined the university's academic programmes, faculty, funding and management practices.
University officials said the endorsement of Middle States would make Zayed graduates more employable and would also improve the prospect of placing postgraduate students at universities in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. Like other federal postsecondary institutions, the university has been straining under a budget freeze that Sheikh Nahyan said he hoped would be rectified by next year, when the Government implemented a budget based on attendance figures.
Since its opening, Zayed University has graduated five classes, each comprising 1,700 students. @Email:email@example.com Zayed University graduates: editorial, page a25