Niche courses other than business studies are vital to meet needs of educational landscape, say recruitment experts and academics.
Amity University opens the market, by degrees
DUBAI // Students have started their first term at the new Dubai campus of India's Amity University - the emirate's 53rd university and its first new one for two years.
Staff said they hoped the institution would fill a gap in a market dominated by business degrees by offering a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including nanotechnology and hospitality management.
They were pleased with the first cohort of 100 students and said the number could rise to 150 by the time enrolment closes in three weeks.
The university was cleared to open only in June, by which time many students had already decided on their university of choice.
Most students have stuck with the more established subjects such as banking and finance.
"We need to work on the niche subjects," admitted Vajahat Hussain, the senior vice president, "engaging with the student community and informing them of the courses and opportunities there are for them.
"Some effort will have to go into that but all universities will have a challenge when they introduce something new to an area."
Last year in Dubai, 42 per cent of students were enrolled in business degrees, with 20 universities and business schools offering 25 master of business administration (MBA) degrees. Ibn Masood, the chief executive of Gradberry, a new recruitment portal for student internships and graduate placements, said Dubai's educational landscape had a need for niche programmes.
"One of the biggest requests we get is for digital media executives," she said. "There are no majors here that seem to cater for this. The market needs people who are experts in coding and developing websites, which computer engineers are not being trained for."
Dr T R Venkatesh, the head of academics at Amity, hoped that the 70-plus UAE-based alumni from its Indian campuses would be crucial ambassadors for these specialisms.
"They can talk to students about what's happening in the market place," he said. "We're telling people these are cutting-edge courses for sectors which will be very important in the future."
The campus offers courses in nuclear technology and nanotechnology, which could prove of key value with Abu Dhabi's plants due to open in 2015 and 2017 respectively.
Amity also offers courses in hospitality, tourism and event management, in which there remains a lack of home-grown talent with the relevant skills and experience.
Seyed Mojtaba Naghavi, a 21-year-old Iranian, chose the university for both its reputation and its low fees. The Dh30,000 a year he pays for his bachelor's course in hospitality management is less than half the price of the only alternative, the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management.
Afshan Pathan, 25, is doing an MBA with a specialism in tourism administration. As well as the cost - just Dh50,000 for two years - she was drawn to the institution's reputation in India, her native country, although she has lived for 24 years in Dubai.
Amity also has campuses in London, New York, San Francisco, Singapore and Mauritius, and hopes to be in 25 countries within the next four to five years.
While curricula and standards must match that of the home campus, courses were tailored for Dubai, said Dr Venkatesh, with locally relevant case studies, for example.
Dr Warren Fox, the head of higher education at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai's education regulator, described Amity as a welcome and exciting addition.
"We're pleased Amity is bringing a broad range of courses, some of which aren't available in Dubai," he said.
"What we're really interested in is the diversifying number of programmes and growth in that area."
Danish Wani, 17, said he felt excited to be a "pioneer" at the institution and expected he and his telecoms engineering classmates to be "pampered", with just six or seven students per teacher.
"It's awesome to start off with an institution that's so big but there's so few of us."