x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 25 November 2017

Government to fund extra 3,000 students

Members of the Cabinet have approved funding for an additional 3,000 applicants for places at government universities.

Zayed University have seen their budgets fail to grow in line with cost increases in the past few years.
Zayed University have seen their budgets fail to grow in line with cost increases in the past few years.

Thousands of Emiratis who faced missing out on places at government universities will now be admitted after the Cabinet yesterday approved funding for an additional 3,000 applicants. Students who meet entrance requirements will be able to take up places in September. Zayed University, UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology have seen their budgets fail to grow in line with cost increases in the past few years, forcing them to turn away students and cap wage rises, and causing some academics to resign.

Members of the Cabinet approved the budget increase on the orders of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Following the decision, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said: "No student will be left behind. We hope that this will be the beginning of the solution for all [government] higher education institutions." The decision follows a Federal National Council (FNC) meeting this year at which Sheikh Nahyan said higher education budgets had failed to take account of inflation and increased responsibilities. At the same meeting, members of the FNC were told that UAE University needed an extra Dh500 million (US$136m).

Zayed University's annual budget has been frozen at Dh210 million since the 2002-03 academic year, despite a 52 per cent rise in student numbers. This year, 16,081 Emiratis applied for places at government universities, of which 13,195 achieved examination results that made them eligible. Before the funding increase, 9,782 of these students were projected to be offered places, leaving 3,413 unable to enrol.

Subha al Shamisi, the Ministry of Education's executive director for higher education and scientific research, said those applicants would now have the chance to study for a diploma, higher diploma or degree. "I am absolutely very pleased," she said. "This will help so many students to go into universities and will make our job easier. "When students don't have a place, it makes it very difficult for us to tell them we're not accepting them when they meet the minimum requirements." Miss Shamisi said the budget announcement was "perfect timing" because Sheikh Nahyan was scheduled to approve this year's student numbers on Thursday.

In May, it was revealed that officials were close to finalising a formula that would link funding at government universities to the number of students. That agreement, expected to lead to a significant increase in funds for the federal tertiary institutions, is still under discussion. This week's announcement involves a separate, one-year budget allocation. The cabinet's decision on funding is the second piece of good news for government universities in recent days.

Last week, Sheikh Nahyan revealed that Zayed University had secured accreditation from the United States' Middle States Commission on Higher Education. It is the first federal university to receive international accreditation. Also at yesterday's cabinet meeting, ministers were briefed on the US State Department's recent Trafficking in Persons Report. According to the Government news agency WAM, the Cabinet "appreciated the positive points" the report contained about the UAE's efforts to combat human trafficking.

A federal draft law to help the creation of sport clubs and associations to encourage more professionalism in the sector was approved at the same meeting. The Cabinet also approved the creation of a foreign aid co-ordination office to be chaired by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, Deputy prime minister, and confirmed the appointment of Abdullah Ibrahim al Shehhi as the UAE's Ambassador to Iraq. @Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae