DUBAI // As Zayed University prepares to open its Dh3.7 billion Abu Dhabi campus on Sunday, some students at its Dubai branch will be squeezed into meeting rooms converted for lectures.
"We're running out of space," said Dr Larry Wilson, the university's provost. "We're growing at around 20 per cent every year."
If this growth continues, drastic measures will be needed to accommodate students. The university may also have to cut admissions if it is not given resources to add space.
"Without money we'd have to cap the enrolments and only admit the numbers we could teach," Dr Wilson said. "We can't expand at 20 per cent a year without an expansion of space.
"There is land beside us which we'd planned for the male campus, but nothing's been done with it yet."
All three of the country's federal institutions - Zayed University, UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology - have had funding shortfalls.
Zayed University has had its budget cut this year by Dh32 million to 8 per cent below the required amount calculated by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
In January, staff at the university received pay rises of 2 per cent after three and a half years without an increase, and despite contracts that promise an annual 5 per cent rise.
UAE University is starting the year with a Dh63m, or 4.5 per cent, funding shortfall and HCT, the worst hit, is short by Dh333m - a quarter of what it needs.
Yesterday, in an address marking the start of the academic year, the Zayed University vice chancellor Dr Sulaiman al Jassim told staff: "As you are well aware, we will inevitably spar with the Ministry of Finance about our annual budget."
Dr Tom Cochran, the head of the Abu Dhabi campus, said it would be very unlikely students would commute to Abu Dhabi when the Dubai campus reached capacity.
"We predicted that this fall Dubai would be at capacity," Dr Cochran said.
"It's built for 4,000 women but now we've got the men's programme, we'll have around 400 in that this year and over 3,300 women, which means we're at capacity."
He said several buildings that had been planned or started when the campus opened in 2006 were put on hold for financial reasons.
The land is available around the Dubai campus, which stands like a space ship in the centre of Dubai International Academic City.
This is the second year men have been admitted to the university, which was originally established for women in 1998.
"We also need to build a men's campus as we'd planned," said Dr Cochran. "Now it's a matter of trying to secure financing for a men's campus."