x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Universities have perception problem

People have a lower opinion of universities than of any other part of the UAE's education system, according to The National's survey by YouGov.

Tahir Ratlamwala says branch campuses of established foreign schools offer a better education.
Tahir Ratlamwala says branch campuses of established foreign schools offer a better education.

ABU DHABI // People have a lower opinion of universities than of any other part of the UAE's education system, according to The National's survey by YouGov. Just 42 per cent of people surveyed thought universities in the Emirates were good or excellent, and only 36 per cent felt the same about postgraduate education. Nurseries and kindergartens fared best; 61 per cent rated them good or excellent, followed by elementary schools (59 per cent), preparatory schools (51 per cent) and secondary schools (47 per cent).

The opinion of federal universities was especially low. Almost a quarter (24 per cent) felt they were not as good as branch campuses of foreign schools, and only one in 10 felt they were better. Tahir Ratlamwala, a 23-year-old Pakistani, said branch campuses of established foreign schools offer a better education. "Like Michigan State University [which has a branch in Dubai]. It's more than 100 years old," he said.

"It's obvious they provide a better education than a university that's recently established." Mr Ratlamwala is studying for a master's degree in mechanical engineering at the American University of Sharjah, a UAE-based school that uses a US curriculum. He had faith in the education he was getting because of the university's international accreditation, he said. Federal institutions are "doing their best", said Sameer al Jaberi, a 20-year-old Emirati at Abu Dhabi Men's College, one of the Higher Colleges of Technology.

"But I don't think this is enough for people who really want to learn," said Mr al Jaberi, who is in his final year of a higher diploma course in multimedia. "For me, this is not enough. If you go abroad to a university in the UK [for example], the whole system is different." Mr al Jaberi said funding levels in the UAE were good, but some students were not motivated "and that limits the teachers".

dbardsley@thenational.ae