x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emirati men going to University on the rise

This year, while the number of women at Zayed University has risen by 21 per cent to about 4,000, the number of men has jumped by more than two-thirds to about 1,000.

ABU DHABI // The number of male students at Zayed University has risen by more than half this year, and most of the increase has come from the university's new campus.

About 1,400 young men are attending this year, from 900 last.

When it opened last year, the Khalifa City campus had 600 male students, compared with 3,300 women.

This year, while the number of women has risen by 21 per cent to about 4,000, the number of men has jumped by more than two-thirds to about 1,000.

And the previously all-female university hopes that lopsided increase will continue as words spreads that it now caters for both genders.

Mohammed Al Mazrouei, 18, is among this year's fourth intake of boys - and one of just 10 per cent of students who start federal university with enough English to go straight to a degree course, without remedial classes.

Mohammed wanted to study in Abu Dhabi, where his family live and where he grew up. The only universities in the emirate offering his chosen subject of international relations are Zayed University and the Sorbonne.

"French isn't my strong point so I chose Zayed University," he said.

Mohammed said it was becoming the university of choice for local teenagers.

"Most of my high school and most of my neighbourhood is here," he said. "It's definitely word of mouth and parents like their kids to come here, not only because it carries Sheikh Zayed's name but because it has built a reputation."

Mohamed Al Romaithi, 19, has also gone straight to his degree course in IT engineering.

"If you graduate from Zayed University companies come looking for you, you don't have to even look for the jobs," Mohamed said.

"Like the Crown Prince's Court - it's already looking for the students with the high grades before you even graduate. That's not going to happen if you study abroad."

Ayman Al Hussaini, 23, was keen to go to university with his school friends. He has just begun a degree in strategic communications, after working since high school.

Ayman chose Zayed University because it allows students to specialise from the start, rather than only in the final year.

The rising number of men is good news for those attending. The university's classes remain segregated so the small number of men in the first couple of years limited the number of viable courses.

But as more men enrol, they can be offered a wider, more appealing range of courses.

"As the number of males grows, we want to be able to offer the same courses to males as we do females," said the provost, Larry Wilson. "In Abu Dhabi, we can nearly do that."

The new location also helped.

"We're in a new catchment area, close to Khalifa City, Mohammed Bin Zayed City and Shahama," said Bryan Gilroy, the vice provost.

And as more boys see their friends and relatives go to Zayed University, more are spurred to follow.

"They realise we're not just a female university," Mr Gilroy said. "We've moved away from that."

Wayne Jones, associate director of the Abu Dhabi campus, said the past tendency for boys to study elsewhere was changing.

"Zayed University has a good reputation now," Mr Jones said. "Most males will have sisters or relatives who've studied here and see it's a place they'd like to come."

Mr Gilroy said many men with diplomas from the Higher Colleges of Technology were moving to the university to gain their degrees.

"We've also made a point to go out to the boys' schools, as well as sending out students from here as role models - not just the high achievers, but students to show they too can come here and achieve."

The Dubai campus took its first men in 2010, a year after Abu Dhabi. It still has far fewer men - only 395, compared with 4,000 women.

Unlike the capital, men in Dubai have to use the same classrooms as women at different times of day.

mswan@thenational.ae