The majority of Emiratis opt to study at one of the country's three federal institutions of higher learning
Students give UAE universities 'A' for quality
When it comes to higher education, Emiratis are spoiled for choice. Each year, hundreds fly overseas to study abroad, many on academic scholarships funded by the government. Others choose to enrol in one of the country’s growing number of international and local private universities. But a majority, like Salem Bin Beshr, opt to study at one of the three federal institutions of higher learning, which are free to Emirati citizens.
“The quality of education is the same, only the name is different between public and private,” said the 27-year-old Emirati who studies communications at Zayed University. “Maybe it is even better because it is from the government. We have also a better building — it’s beautiful, with many facilities.”
Mr Bin Beshr had been persuaded to join ZU by three of his sisters, who also attended the university.
“So I heard many good things about Zayed University, that it is a big university and better, there are many majors,” he said.
Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, 20, who also followed his sister’s footsteps to join the accounting programme at ZU, said he is happy with his decision to study at a local university.
“Because a degree from Zayed University is very good. It has strong name,” said Mr Al Sheikh.
Both young men said their extra-curricular experience working and volunteering on campus had helped boost their confidence and build their communication and time management skills.
“It’s not just textbook learning,” said Mr Al Sheikh said of his experience.
Noor Al Marzooqi decided to join ZU because it was close to her home and had more modern facilities than another college she was considering. As a graduate of a state high school, she was used to the public education system and had never considered attending a private university.
“No, why? The government offers us everything — like, everything. Even if I needed something and I want to borrow something, everything would be available for me.”
The 23-year-old communications student said higher education has transformed her life.
“I used to be very reserved. I didn’t like to talk to people a lot,” said Ms Al Marzooqi. “But now since I’m working a lot and I am communicating with a lot of people, I am more open. I am better at communications, better at writing, better at doing office work, better at maybe having relationship with different nationalities. So, it’s a big transformation.”
Sara Al Ansari moved from her home in Dubai to join the special education programme at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain.
“I wanted a major that was unique, that was new, that wasn’t that popular,” said Ms Al Ansari, 20.
UAEU was the only public federal university to offer the programme and Ms Al Ansari said she had been impressed by the quality of its staff and rating in international rankings.
“It is the best decision I made in my life,” Ms Al Ansari said.