Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 November 2019

More Emiratis want to study climate change and space sector

Traditional college trends are shifting, admissions officers at major fair say

The American University of Sharjah stand was popular during the Najah education fair in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 
The American University of Sharjah stand was popular during the Najah education fair in Abu Dhabi. Pawan Singh / The National 

Universities have noted a major increase in the numbers of Emirati pupils interested in studying environmental issues and the space sector.

Admissions officers at a major recruitment exhibition in Abu Dhabi said there was a noticeable rise in those seeking information about such courses.

Traditionally many Emiratis opted for a degree in business or law but this is changing, they said

“There is definitely a lot of interest in artificial intelligence and space,” said Kristen Narara of American University of Sharjah. “There has been quite a push in interest because of the UAE’s space programme.”

The impact of the UAE’s first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri, and the prominence of climate campaigner, Greta Thunberg, were pointed to as partly driving the change. But the interest in climate issues has been building for several years and is shared equally by male and female pupils.

“Another area I’ve noticed is that Emiratis [coming to the pavilion] are very interested in environmental science and anything to do with sustainability. It is something high on the agenda,” said Ms Narara. “In the media they are hearing a lot about climate change so I find that really interesting.”

The three-day Najah fair at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre opened on Wednesday and features more than 100 universities from 21 countries. It also hosted talks on artificial intelligence, robotics and the future of aviation. Emiratis at the fair said they had been inspired by the UAE’s space programme.

“I also heard about the Mars programme so maybe I can go to Mars,” said Mohammed Al Hashmi, 17, who was looking at universities specialising in science and technology.

“Khalifa University is the best one in the UAE, I heard,” he said.

Physics is an important subject for pupils wishing to enter the space sector and Khalifa University is trying to encourage more Emiratis to study the subject.

Across the floor at New York University Abu Dhabi’s pavilion, administrators also reported similar trends. “Sustainability is definitely new, possibly because it is so prevalent in the news,” said NYUAD’s Wendy Barnett. “It is something that they are more interested in. Everybody is aware if we don’t look after the planet then the planet is not going to be here.”

Ms Barnett said there were many options for Emiratis wishing to study sustainability such as engineering and then specialising in solar panels. Alternatively they could study economics and then veer into policy planning. “There are lots of different routes.”

Separately, several Lebanese universities canvassing for pupils said it was business as usual despite the current round of protests in the country.

Salim Kanaan, director of admissions at American University of Beirut, said they had seen it all before.

“People will come. People know there have been crises in the past and then it is resolved,” said Mr Kanaan. “Previously we ran without a parliament, without ministries and everyone still came.”

Zeina Tannir, director of admissions at the Rafik Hariri University, said the protests were a temporary issue.

“Some school advisors came [to the pavilion] and said to us that hopefully this is a dark cloud,” said Ms Tannir.

“Education in Lebanon is top notch so I would encourage them to come. It will be sorted out. We are survivors.”

Updated: October 31, 2019 05:56 PM

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