x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

UAE students choose vocational courses to boost careers

Vocational courses are preferred by 84 per cent of UAE students compared with 60 per cent in developed countries such as the UK, US and Canada, a new study by HSBC suggests.

ABU DHABI // More students are choosing college courses such as business and engineering to boost their chances of a rewarding career and financial prosperity throughout their working lives.

Vocational courses are preferred by 84 per cent of UAE students compared with 60 per cent in developed countries such as the UK, US and Canada, a new study by HSBC suggests.

In those countries more students choose non-vocational subjects such as humanities and social sciences.

In the UAE and other small countries or economies, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, students are betting that construction and infrastructure will continue to boom, sustaining demand for those qualified in business, engineering, law, medical and health sciences and IT.

Spending on infrastructure and construction is expected to reach more than Dh480 billion by 2016, almost double the capital outlay in 2011.

Despite higher education being more expensive in developed countries, students there appear to be less concerned about their "return on investment", HSBC said.

There, the increased preference for studying medicine, nursing and social sciences seems driven by ageing populations.

The average cost for an international student studying in the UAE is Dh100,000, including university fees and living expenses, according to HSBC. In the USA, the most expensive country for international students, the average cost is $35,000 (Dh130,000) a year rising to $58,760 for students at Ivy League universities.

Paying for their children's continued education is a "significant" financial responsibility for parents and is hampering their retirement saving plans.

Thirty-four per cent of those surveyed said paying for their children's education was impeding their ability to save for retirement, a separate HSBC study showed.

"As higher education increasingly becomes one of the most important investments people can make in their lifetimes, either for themselves or their children, they have to realise the importance of being financially prepared for this goal," said Rick Crossman of HSBC

"This is particularly pertinent in the UAE where we see a greater focus on vocational degrees, which require significant investment."

Norbert Menezes, an Indian who has worked in the Arabian Gulf for 23 years, has saved diligently to send his two sons to university. His older son, Nitin, plans to go to the US next year to study finance, business and economics.

"Our financial plan started in earnest four years back when he decided he really wanted to go to the US for his studies," Mr Menezes said. But even before then he put money away because "all Indians have the saving bug".

He estimates it will cost as much as Dh130,000 a year to support his son while he is an undergraduate and as much as Dh220,000 when he goes on to take an MBA.

Mr Menezes, though, is fortunate that paying for his sons' education will not interfere with his saving for retirement.

With two houses in India, sufficient insurance, mutual funds and bank deposits, "we have made a lot of savings for retirement", he says.

lgutcher@thenational.ae