Spellings urges more Emirati students to join US varsities

DUBAI — US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings yesterday said she would like to see an increasing number of Emirati students pursue studies in the US.

By Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporter)

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Published: Wed 21 May 2008, 9:01 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 7:10 PM

"The door for education in the US is open. We would like to see the number of Emirati students in the US increase," said Spellings at a Press conference in the American University of Dubai (AUD).

"I strongly urge American students to come here and pursue studies in the UAE," she added.

Spellings emphasised that the US government has been working to facilitate and expedite student visas and the number of students in the US was back to the figure at the time before the September 11 terrorist attacks. Currently, 650 Emirati students are studying in the US.

American officials present at the conference noted that the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi met student visa applicants without appointments. "They are on the top of our priority list," said American Consul-General Paul Sutphin.

A US-Saudi Arabia agreement has helped expedite visas and Spellings noted that she was happy with the efforts taken by the Saudi government to increase the number of students applying to the US universities.

"We have misconceptions about each other and education will help understand each other better," said Spellings, referring to the West's perception of the Middle East. A memorandum of understanding was signed on Monday between UAE Minister of Education Dr Hanif Hassan and Spellings, where they have agreed that Math, Science and language studies were essential skills for innovation. "All innovation is rooted in Math, Science and language studies. This has been selected as our first area of focus. We can be mutually benefited from this," Spellings said, adding that part of the MoU was to bring delegations from the US to the UAE.

"We also welcome officials from the UAE to the US," she observed.

On the existing cooperation between the two countries, Spellings said she was "pleased but not satisfied" and was happy to have more partnerships.

During her stay, she has visited and toured schools and colleges, including Zayed University, Dubai; American University of Sharjah; Al Mawakeb Model School for Girls; and AUD.

"There is a keen understanding here among girls and women for higher secondary study and a knowledge economy," she remarked after visiting the schools.

She noted that myths and misconceptions existed in the US and the Arab world and only cultural exchanges and education could help break them down.

According to the five-year MoU signed to develop education in the country, the two ministries of education will have the primary responsibility for implementing it and each party will designate a point of contact within each agency that shall be responsible for communication and coordination of activities under the provisions of this MoU.

The MoU shall be effective till 2013, and may be extended and modified in writing as mutually agreed on by the parties or their successors at any time during the term of the MoU.

It aims at developing a collaborative relationship for the purpose of advancing educational practices and performance in the educational system, improving education and sharing educational information.

It also includes participation between both countries in educational events, workshops, conferences and training opportunities in addition to research and other educational best practices.

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