x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Long road to learning gets shorter

Wollongong university sets up new student housing closer to the campus in Knowledge Village, Dubai.

Hajiaga Mosaycu, right, and Daniyar Rakhimov probably will not miss taking the bus to Dubai.
Hajiaga Mosaycu, right, and Daniyar Rakhimov probably will not miss taking the bus to Dubai.

Some students at the University of Wollongong in Dubai will return from winter break to more pleasant circumstances: a shorter commute and new accommodations. Having originally rented an apartment block in Ajman after failing to find a more suitable building in Dubai, the university has now opened a new dormitory just 20 minutes from the campus in Knowledge Village.

"It's much better for students, it's much better for us," said Raymi van der Spek, the university's vice president for administration. Sixty students have moved out of the block near Ajman City Centre and will relocate to the Ewan District in Dubai Investments Park when classes begin later this month. And to add to the savings on time, student rents will remain about the same. Students will pay from Dh7,500 (US$2,040) per term for the new accommodations, about the same as they paid in Ajman.

Jay Jayatikala, the university's manager for international marketing, said the students were "extremely pleased" their commute had been cut. "The only concern the students had with Ajman was the commute, particularly in the morning," he said. "For the students who started at 8.30am, it was a very early start." To arrive on time for an early lecture, a student in Ajman would typically have to wake at 5am to catch a 5.45am bus to Knowledge Village, with the journey taking about two hours.

And while some were able to study on the drive in, others complained that they would get back late from the university and would study until midnight, making it difficult to get a full night's sleep. The Ajman apartment block, which had a capacity for 190 people, had not proved popular and much of the empty space was taken up by the university's security staff, drivers and cleaners. "It certainly wasn't at capacity," said Mr van der Spek.

"It still works out very economical [for the students in Ajman], but there were signs that the rate of people taking it up was coming down and I'm sure the numbers would have diminished." Mr van der Spek said the property market was "extraordinarily better" for those looking to rent buildings these days. "It was 16 months ago we made the decision we had to go to Ajman because we couldn't rent anything here," he said.

"It wasn't even about price. Landlords wouldn't rent a whole building to be used for students. Now they're ecstatically happy [to rent buildings out]. "It's, 'Please come and rent my building'. It's a very different world." The University of Wollongong in Dubai is the largest local offshoot of a foreign university in the UAE, with about 3,500 students. The majority of the students live with their families, and university accommodation is mostly for those coming from overseas.

@Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae