Where are the majority of your students from? Are there any new enrollment trends currently taking place?
AL JASSIM: The majority of our students come from the United Arab Emirates and are UAE nationals. Two years ago, we opened enrollment for international students and we now have 23 nationalities at Zayed University. The main purpose of that, as Sheikh Nayhan always instructed us, is to bring international students to come and mix with our students so that they can learn from each other. So the idea is that other nationalities will come and participate and add more value to our students.
What methods are employed to convince local students to attend universities here in the UAE as opposed to going abroad?
AL JASSIM: Students were more keen back in the 70s and 80s to go and study abroad. At that time there were not many strong educational institutions here like we have today. Today we have 70 higher educational institutions in the emirates, three of them government – UAE University, Zayed University, and the Higher Colleges of Technology. There are almost 100,000 students studying across the universities in the UAE today and we do have highly reputable international educational institutions here and more are opening regularly. In the past, students came to study in the UAE because of the security, the job opportunities, and the lifestyle, and now we also have the best universities here in the UAE as well. We still want to encourage students to go and study overseas and gain that experience, but we want people to know about the opportunities and specializations available here as well. The quality of the education that we offer is the same standard that can be expected from any great university in the world. We have very talented people, they graduate, and we get tremendous feedback from their employers. Compare our students with any reputable university and our graduates are the same; I am not only talking about Zayed University, but also UAE University, the Higher Colleges of Technology, and the leading private universities in the emirates.
How will the federal governments spending freeze for state run universities impact higher education in the UAE? What kind of support are you receiving from the government?
AL JASSIM: We do receive full support from the federal and local governments. This is why higher education is booming, succeeding, and growing very quickly. The number of students applying to higher educational institutions, and government institutions especially, is growing. For instance, at Zayed University this year, we have more than 7,000 students; Higher Colleges of Technology has more than 20,000 students; UAE University has more than 13,000 students; so in total there are more than 40,000 students at these three institutions. There are also students who apply for scholarships to study overseas. The government has supported the universities and the students financially. We have a new AED 4bn ($1.1bn) building in Abu Dhabi which is the most expensive building in higher education in the area and we are proud to see that. In Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai built us a half billion dirham beautiful campus. The government has supported higher education financially and they encourage us always so that is why you see local higher educational institutions succeeding and doing very well.
What are your projections for student enrollment numbers in the next two years? How much of an impact has the downturn had upon higher education both in terms of enrollment and course offerings?
AL JASSIM: I think the growth of population in the emirates is growing very steadily, more than 3.5% to 4%, and consequently the growth in higher education is also very high. Every year, we have more nationals applying to higher educational institutions. I do not think there is an impact from the global economic situation in the emirates. You see the growth, the buildings, the facilities, the infrastructure, etc. Economic growth is doing very well in the UAE and the global economic situation has not had an impact on higher education in the UAE. Nationals are applying, graduating, and finding jobs. Health, security, and education are very important in any nation and that is why we have full support from the government; education is the priority in government services. At Zayed University we have 6 leading colleges and we always try to build our program around economic needs. Most of the programs are tailor made to the local economic and social situation in the emirates. We have programs in IT, education, business, media & communication, and any of the other needs that employers expect.
We do receive full support from the federal and local governments. This is why higher education is booming, succeeding, and growing very quickly. The number of students applying to higher educational institutions, and government institutions especially, is growing.
Are the demands on the UAE’s youth different from those placed on previous generations? In what ways is today’s UAE job market different for graduates?
AL JASSIM: The new generation has the internet and facebook and information technology. They are well educated and there is a huge amount of information available to them very quickly. However, the old generation has the wisdom, they have the experience and the traditions. We need to maintain those traditional values. We need to mix between the new generation who has the ambition for innovation and development and the old people who have the wisdom and tradition. If we have both of these together, we will have great social and economic impact on the development of the emirates. When you recruit nationals to work in your institution, you will see that they are on top of their work right away. We graduate our students to compete internationally, not just to be hired because they are local. Compare our graduates with any expat with a high skill level and our graduates will not have less skill. In the Emirates you will find a lot of university graduates, nationals and non-nationals. They have good skills, good experience, are well trained, and you can trust that they will do a good job.