x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 November 2017

US top choice for parents who wish to send their children abroad for university

65 percent of parents in the UAE surveyed said they would like to send their children abroad for university

A majority of parents in the UAE would consider sending their children abroad for university, with the United States among the top destinations, a survey suggested.

Asked whether they would consider sending their children abroad for university, 65 per cent of UAE parents answered yes – more than any other of the 15 countries that were surveyed for The Value of Education, a report published by HSBC last month. It collated responses from 8,481 parents in 15 countries and territories. The average among the 15 countries was 41 per cent.

But this finding is not exceptional, given the Emirates’ demographics, said Dr Jacob Chacko, dean of the College of Business Administration at Abu Dhabi University (ADU).

“It doesn’t surprise me because, first of all, something like 85 per cent of the parents are expats in this country,” said Dr Chacko.

“At the end of the day, none of these people are going to retire here.”

Many international parents who visit the ADU campus have expressed an interest in having their adult children live and work in the UAE after graduation. During these visits, school officials often have to address the misconception that a foreign degree will give the students a leg up when applying for a job in the Emirates.

“Basically we are much less expensive compared to North America, especially the US, and Australia, and the students get a comparably accredited degree,” said Dr Chacko. “What universities in this part of the world are doing is going for the highest accreditation possible, especially for professional schools, to show the comparability in quality with some of the more reputed universities in the west."

Parents surveyed globally identified the United States is the number one destination, followed by Australia, the UK, Canada and Germany. Parents are likely attracted to the idea of USA being a “land of prosperity and opportunity,” said Janet Roberts, senior education consultant with the Knowledge Group.

“I think that parents see that education is all about what kind of income can you get to support your future family and since America is prosperous, that is the best place for you to get the most for your education,” said Ms Roberts.

“The United States has a reputation in the world for being business savvy. We have the highest GDP per capita. I think that people think, wow, there must be something magical about that place and if I go there maybe some of that will rub off.”

International students are also attracted to America’s flexible learning environment, said Peter Davos, founder and managing director of Hale Education Group.

“You have two years to figure out what you want to do, you don’t have to declare your major until the end of your second year,” said Mr Davos. “You can double-major - that’s a huge selling point.”

The institutional wealth at many privately funded American universities often translates into more scholarship opportunities for international students, said Mr Davos.

“For example, at Harvard if your family makes less than $65,000 a year no matter where in the world you’re from, no matter what your citizenship is, you pay absolutely nothing to go to Harvard,” said Mr Davos.

“All the wealthy universities have significant need-based aid and their threshold for need can be up to US$200,000 per year or more. Then on the merit scholarship front, even good students, not unbelievable students, can get significant merit aid from not the top universities, but from good universities.”

At ADU, Dr Chacko said international pupils now make up 60 per cent of the student population, thanks, in part, to dual-degree programme the university offers in partnership with universities in the United States and Australia, and he expects the number will grow.

“The higher education sector here has really strengthened in terms of quality and reputation over the last seven or eight years,” said Dr Chacko. “I see that going forward I think this will be a major location for several international students from the region to come and study. It is becoming an education hub for not just the GCC but for the wider region.”

rpennington@thenational.ae