Demand for student discounts

Many students in Dubai are strapped for cash and live a low-cost life in the fast-paced city. Allowances are limited and barely enough to meet high living costs.


Muaz Shabandri

Published: Wed 27 Oct 2010, 12:13 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:34 PM

Food, electricity bills, travel expenses and stationery top their list of priorities, and with few subsidies and discounts on offer, most students find the going getting tough by the end of the month.

Existing discount cards like the JAWAZ offer little when it comes to saving money, as most retail outlets don’t encourage such schemes for the community. Awareness on student schemes is also scarce.

Waqas Afzal from SZABIST University feels a lot more needs to be done to make education and living in general easier for students in the UAE.

“I haven’t heard about student discounts over here. In fact, some retailers increase their prices when they see students, given we do not usually bargain over prices,” he says.

While some retail outlets offer discounts for students, savings are usually limited to clothing and electronic goods.

“Student discounts should focus more on notebooks and course material. Photocopying notes and other study material is a major expense, and it becomes a necessity once you join a university,” says another student, Fatima Ibrahim Shaker.

She finds it hard to manage her expenses and says retail outlets should provide incentives for students to save money on printing and other expenses.

Students in some foreign countries get travel, food, car rental and airfare discounts. Retailers lure the community by providing group offers.

Shruti Chimalakonda from Heriot Watt University is one of the many who says awareness is lacking with not many spreading the good word. “Many students never get to know of special discounts because they are never advertised or brought to the notice of students.”

She has managed to slash her expenses by spending most of her time on the university campus. “Food is slightly over-priced and there are days when I ignore food to cater to my other needs.”

A lunch costs Dh15 on average; a student ends up paying more than Dh300 for food every month. With their options at eating out scaled down, a sizeable number of students bring food from home.

Student Advantage, a discount provider for students in the US, works with hundreds of colleges, universities and campus organisations, and thousands of establishments to develop products and services. This enables students to make cheaper purchases on campuses across the country.

While the UAE does not have a dedicated student discount provider, the mandatory JAWAZ card offers students in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV) some discounts.

It also doubles up as a unique student ID and lifestyle card that gives access to DIAC facilities such as the recreation room and other services.

But, at Dh250, many students find the card expensive with bargains not worth writing home about.

Nelson Monterio complains that only small stores are covered under the scheme. “The discounts are usually for lesser known outlets and most of the branded stores are not included in it.”

Pravin Koshti from SP Jain Institute of Management in Dubai also shares a grouse with this newspaper.

“While I was in Singapore for the first leg of my Global MBA programme, I used to receive discounts on my travel and food expenses. The university ID card was recognised by retail outlets and they would also have special deals for students.”

Currently in Dubai to complete the second leg of his MBA programme, Pravin says, “Dubai needs to come a long way in promoting student discounts and there should be more awareness among retail outlets also.”

More news from