Things students must know before joining university

Are students here getting enough support when it comes to preparing for that next step?

Last week, an estimated 2,000 Grade 12 Indian school students in the UAE put pen to paper and began sitting their CBSE exams. Although the exams conclude on April 29, for many, this is the start of a new journey, with the next step being university. But are students here getting enough support when it comes to preparing for that next step?

With 30 university institutions registered under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), some are now collaborating directly with schools to help offer guidance in regards to choosing the right university course and campus.

At Middlesex University Dubai, its School Partnership collaboration supports several schools across the UAE including Al Mawakeb School, GEMS Winchester School Dubai, and Our Own English High School.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, the university’s director, said programmes like this foster independence in students.

“In the UAE, parents have a major role in deciding the area of study and the university their child goes to. However, this has been reducing as school students are doing their own university choice research.”

And that is in large part due to the fact that the information is now easily available online. When it comes to what information students want in regards to picking the right course and campus for them, Fernandes said several rules apply.

Have students stopped relying on their parents?

“Students have a range of disciplines to choose from and some of the key areas they want more information on is the career options in each of their short-listed areas, and what professional certifications and internships they can undertake while they are studying to enhance their employability.”

But the majority of students deem the origins of where the degree will be issued as a priority – with preference for degrees from the UK “due to the high standard of UK education”, he added.

Once the academics are taken care of, then comes the focus on campus. Fernandes said the caliber of the faculty is an important aspect in a student’s decision making process and that is why word-of-mouth is an important element here.

“The student experience in sports, cultural and activities outside the classroom are a big factor and prospective students will check out which university provides this.” And this is a key element of the programme, as students get a chance to tour campuses and interact with current university students.

Students must liaise with varsities prior to application process

For Kritika Mathur Ghosh, counsellor at The Sheffield Private School Dubai, it is imperative that school students liaise with universities prior to the application stages to get a clearer vision of what they want, but she said collaborative programmes can offer other perks too.

“It’s always an advantage when students get additional discounts and scholarships on their fee. Apart from this, a priority in admission and selection process by awarding academic excellence scholarships to our top students/valedictorians also help lift up the spirits and self-esteem of students.”

Although most children in her school start the planning process in Year 10, Ghosh said early intervention strategies and career planning from Year 9 are very beneficial, so this is when they try to implement the collaborative process.

Currently, she said around 40 per cent of her students are choosing the UAE as the “first or second choice of study”, and that’s because more and more internationally recognised campuses have started opening their branches here.

“This allows our average students to receive a top-class education and an international degree. Apart from this, students also prefer UAE as they can stay close to family.”

How partnership collaborations help

> Students become engaged with universities in advance of making their ongoing educational choices
> The partnerships include taster sessions, guest lectures, introduction sessions and campus tours
> Competitions alongside tailored programme of activities to support decision making
> Schools will be included in the direct application process
> Prospective students can receive an Academic Excellence Scholarship
> Prospective students can receive a School Partnership Grant alongside scholarships

Getting ready to go to university?

Then ask yourself these important questions:

> What is the history of this university in the UAE and in the country of its origin?
> How long has the university been operating in the UAE? What is the university’s track record in delivering on the ground in the UAE? Do they have reputed faculty?
> Does the university offer the course of study I am interested in? What is the track record of students who have graduated from this discipline at this university?
> Does the university provide an all-round student experience; Academically, sports, cultural activities, field trips and industry interaction?
> Will the university and what I study enhance my employability?

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