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United Arab Emirates

Higher Education

The UAE's younger citizens also have ready access to higher education at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al Ain, at the recently founded all-women Zayed University in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, at the 11 campuses of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCTs) throughout the country, and at the many internationally accredited private institutions that are being established in the UAE. UAEU, Zayed University, the Higher Colleges, and other federally funded institutions are tuition free. Generous grants are also available for those wishing to study abroad, most of whom are males pursuing degrees in applied and technical fields. In 1998, over 1000 UAE students (mostly male) studied abroad in 32 countries with UAE government grants. Many families use their own resources to provide for their son's undergraduate education in the United States, often in a business or commercial field.

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research controls higher education in the UAE. Primary functions of that ministry are to plan and coordinate higher education activities in the UAE. It also is the coordination point for admissions for all federal institutions of higher learning. The oldest of the several postsecondary institutions in the UAE, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) opened in 1977 at Al Ain with four faculties in the arts, science, education, and political science, and business administration. First-year enrollment was 400. A sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) faculty was added in 1978; faculties in agriculture and engineering were added in 1982. The UAEU has become a leading tertiary institution in education, research, and community service. The university is the most popular destination for students seeking higher education in the UAE with over 15,000 students currently studying at its facilities. Instruction in most courses is in Arabic with several programs being conducted in English. Most courses are segregated on the basis of gender.

The Higher Colleges of Technology were established in 1988, initially offering two-year applied and vocational programs. Located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah, they provide three years of technical training in such areas as business administration, accounting, banking, information systems, computers, engineering, aviation technology, and health sciences. There are separate HCT colleges for men and women. The HCT awarded it first bachelor's degrees in 2001. These colleges are designed to prepare nationals for professional and technological careers in both government and private sectors. Since their foundation, the colleges have grown dramatically, with staff and students increasing by about 30 percent each year. As of 2001, over 10,000 students are taking advantage of the educational opportunities offered by HCT campuses around the country. The HCT are also embarking on an extensive program of off-campus instruction.

Zayed University (ZU) for women, with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was established in 1998 with the aim of educating Emirati women in English, Arabic, and computer skills as well as in academic areas. It provides four-year undergraduate studies in the arts and sciences, business, communication and media sciences, education, and family sciences. It will also soon provide graduate and continuing education programs for adult male and female students. One such course is the executive MBA program offered by ZU College of Business Sciences. Its current enrollment is about 2,000 students.

As reported annually in the Ministry of Information and Culture's publication, United Arab Emirates Yearbook, public sector higher education continues its expansion. A record 10,703 people sought higher education places in the 2000-2001 academic year, of which 9,794 were declared academically eligible. This means that more than 90 percent of national students leaving high school in the UAE are applying to Zayed University, the UAE University at Al Ain, and the Higher Colleges of Technology. Of all secondary school graduates, this includes 95 percent women and 73 percent of the men, reported to be the highest number of higher education admissions per capita anywhere in the world.

During the 2000-2001 application process, Zayed University enrolled 435 new students, 244 at its Abu Dhabi campus and 191 in Dubai. The Higher Colleges of Technology received 5,661 new students. The National Admissions and Placement Office received 3,275 applications from female students and 1,758 from male students for places at the UAE University. About a third of the female students have applied for courses offered by the Humanities and Social Sciences faculty, while the most popular choice among males is engineering and business economics. There are also special federallysupported training colleges with a practical, career-orientated focus, like the Etisalat College (developed by the UAE federal telecommunications agency), the Police Colleges, and the Dubai Aviation College, with a student population of over 900 for the 2000-2001 academic year.

Higher education is also available through the Armed Forces with the Zayed Military Academy in Al Ain, which includes students from throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states. Many emiratis have an educational experience abroad. Several thousand young people, predominately males in technical areas, travel abroad to study on government scholarships in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Europe. There is a strong preference for English language, graduate-level degree programs. A number of Emiratis also study English in summer programs in the United States and the United Kingdom.

The UAE private higher education sector also continues to grow, often in the form of extramural degree programs with the participation of both recognized and little-known institutions in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, India, and Pakistan.

There is great variety in the private higher education sector. Some programs are for-profit private enterprises with a vocational training focus while others have private endowments and an intellectually oriented agenda. The most prominent of the new private institutions is the American University of Sharjah (AUS), located in the emirate that is becoming increasingly recognized as the intellectual, artistic, and cultural focal point of the UAE. With a large, well-equipped and attractive campus and internationally prominent faculty, the AUS promises to become the leading university in the region.

Means of Instruction & Infrastructure: The Curriculum and Textbooks Department of the MOEY carries out evaluation and development studies concerning curricula, teaching methodology, audio-visual aids, and evaluation activities. It is the primary contact point for consulting educational experts, specialized educational bureaus in the Gulf, and other Arab and international organizations.

The 1990s brought the development of a great array of new teaching materials for Islamic education, Arabic language, social studies (history, geography, economics, civics) and sociology, logic, philosophy, and psychology. A total of 99 new textbooks were completed or revised between 1994 and 1996. The curricula for chemistry, physics, biology, and geology was developed and integrated with the Gulf States curricula in coordination with the Arab Educational Bureau. By the mid 1990s, the number of textbooks distributed to schools was about 4.5 million and included 199 titles.

Although the UAE has achieved much expansion in the field of education, there is an awareness on the part of many that a constant updating of policy and continual investment in infrastructure is required to ensure that graduates are equipped to enter the workforce and assist in the country's development. Although quantitative measures of progress are most often found in the press, issues of quality regarding curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher preparation and leadership are increasingly being discussed. The Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY) has produced and revised several policy documents outlining a strategy for further educational development in the UAE up to the year 2020, using a sequence of five-year plans.

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