x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Big kids are back in school too as the nation's universities grow

UAE University in Al Ain opens men's campus; ZU has record intake.

AL AIN // As students across the country went back to university yesterday, UAE University in Al Ain opened a male campus, the final part of its Dh2.5bn redevelopment.

Dr Abdulla Al Khanbashi, vice chancellor, said the opening had gone smoothly - helped by the lessons from two years ago, when UAEU opened its much larger female campus.

"We've been doing orientation for new students over the last two weeks, introducing them to where the classes, labs and facilities are," he said. "There was a lot of effort to ensure the main infrastructure, mainly the IT, is operating. Staff were given orientation last week. We don't expect major issues but we have everyone on alert to provide support for students."

Yesterday marked the completion of UAEU's move into its new campus. Previously spread across five locations around the city, all facilities - for both men and women - are now on one, 80-hectare site. The new site is big enough for 20,000 students, far more than the 12,000 who currently attend UAEU.

As well as the library, classrooms and laboratories, students now have access to extracurricular facilities including an indoor swimming pool and sports fields.

"What the new campus is able to do is provide the feasibility of being in one place and the latest in equipment," said Dr Hassan Galadari, an assistant professor in the school of medicine. "In the past, we would have to commute to go to certain labs or lecture halls. In addition, some of the facilities, especially the communications department, were out of date."

Traffic and parking have been significant challenges. Although there are far fewer men - 3,700, out of a total 12,000 students - far more of them drive. The university has co-ordinated with the municipality and police in an effort to smooth the traffic, and provided 1,900 parking bays.

Meanwhile Zayed University (ZU) took its largest intake yet yesterday, with enrolment up 20 per cent on last year.

It now has around 4,500 students at its campus in Abu Dhabi, which opened last year, and a similar number in Dubai, where the university is at capacity. Enrolment has increased by around 20 per cent in each of the past three years.

Dr Larry Wilson, its provost, said: "We really feel the benefits of the space of the new campus. In Dubai, we're smashed for space."

The university is looking to develop on land adjacent to its Academic City campus, but needs funding.

To deal with its greater numbers, the university has just hired 160 teaching staff, its biggest ever intake. "We're trying to catch up with enrollment," said Dr Wilson.

While enrolment numbers at the Higher Colleges of Technology will not be confirmed for another two weeks, Dr Howard Reed, director of its Dubai colleges for men and women, said the number of students offered places had, unusually, increased even more for the men's than the women's college. The men's college has around 1,800 students, the female college around 2,200.

However preliminary numbers at the institution's 17 colleges fell this year to 4,160 students, down from 5,533 last year, as a result of higher entry requirements. That meant the number of HCT students able to start their courses without first taking remedial maths and English rose by 40 per cent this year, from 406 to 568.

mswan@thenational.ae