x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

1998: first university for women opens with two campuses

40 years of the UAE: The opening of Zayed University was a milestone for the future of Emirati women.

The first university for women in the UAE, Zayed University marked a milestone for the future of Emirati women as key players in the country's society and economy.

The university opened in 1998 with about 1,200 students at its Dubai and Abu Dhabi campuses - small converted schools next to Dubai airport and on Delma Street in Abu Dhabi city.

And, according to Dr Dell Felder, the university's provost for its first four years, it made a huge difference.

"Many parents still didn't want to send their daughters away to Al Ain," she says.

At the time, United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain was the only institution issuing bachelor's degrees, a qualification being increasingly demanded by employers in both the government and private sectors.

"The girls wanted to study in the cities they lived in and there was clearly a need for this," Dr Felder says.

She recalls that the women in the first class at Zayed University were very ambitious.

"One of the class went immediately to the US to do a master's degree, came back to a position in government and is now studying for a PhD," Dr Felder says.

"She's not alone in the fact that she was inspired to do something for her country with her education."

Enrolment at the university has tripled since its founding and now stands at 6,600.