50 pc students enrolled in business programmes: KHDA

DUBAI - The education bouquet just got bigger with 112 new programmes introduced by higher education institutes in 2009-2010, and business-related courses are again a big draw. These courses still enroll half the students seeking higher education, Khaleej Times has learnt.

By Afshan Ahmed (afshan@khaleejtimes.com)

Published: Tue 30 Mar 2010, 11:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 30 Nov 2021, 8:37 AM

According to figures by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), of the 38,098 students studying in 53 higher education institutes in the emirate, 18,989 are enrolled in Business, Management and Marketing programmes.

The next most popular choices are courses in society, religion and law, taking in 5,819 students in 2009. Agriculture and Natural and Physical Science enrol only 0.1 pc - the lowest - at 197 students. The trend comes as no surprise as universities increase areas of concentrations to meet demands of the market. Most new courses are skewed towards corporate readiness of graduates.

Dr Jihad Nader, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at the American University of Dubai that has registered 14 new programmes since September said that though the academic scene is maturing with diversified offerings by universities, students' needs are still market driven.

"Dubai is a financial centre, and in this day and age, everything is a business," Dr Nader says. "A change in attitude towards other disciplines also requires a social evolution."

He explains that the higher education choices students make are based on their high school education. "The school system that prepares students who enroll in colleges and universities need to rethink how they prepare them for this next step."

With regard to programmes that require scientific and mathematical skills or creativity and critical thinking, students often fall short of meeting the requirement criteria. "Too many students are completing school without the necessary grounding in these areas and thus cannot enrol in high demand courses," he said. Schools also need to make students aware of their options and assist them in broadening their horizons and follow their passion.

Areas that are gaining momentum as preferred choices of study include engineering and Information Technology (I-T). Specialised Engineering universities like the Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani introduced eight programmes including ME Biotechnology, Design Engineering and Microelectronics last year.

The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) also enhanced its I-T department with three new additions.

Dr. Mohamed Salem, Dean of Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering said the university is following the evolvement of the I-T industry and trying to fill in the gaps. "We try to develop programmes that are suitable for the context of the UAE," says Dr Salem. "Digital security is becoming a major issue as companies move to technology-based operations and thus are focusing on those areas."

Even in I-T, Dr Salem said students prefer courses related to finance, HR, database and system analysis. "There is a good demand for computer science graduates and consultants in the UAE and software development is still a slow sector that depends on highly specialised people."

Education-related courses are being shunned due to fewer job opportunities as the number of students, 290, spells the lack of confidence of students in the profession.

Michael O'Brian, Divisional Chair of the Education department of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), a federal institute, said the college has seen a 30 per cent increase in the education programmes in the past two years. The Dubai Women's College of HCT has 43 Education students while the Dubai Men's College does not offer Education courses.

It is difficult to attract UAE nationals to the teaching profession due to comparatively poor salaries and conditions on offer, compared to jobs in other government areas or the private sector.

"While there is a pressing need for Emirati teachers, it can sometimes take up to six months for our B.Ed graduates to get through the Ministry of Education's recruitment processes and into a teaching job," said O'Brian.

Though some of the most sought-after disciplines are on offer at the various federal, government, private and international branch universities in Dubai, there are avenues that remain untapped.

The next development of higher education will need to address the needs in the fields of medicine, law and research, according to Dr Nader of AUD. "These disciplines are still underdeveloped and need to be explored further," he says.

"Fields of such nature are considered in the best interest of the national population and are subject to regulations and restrictions. They need to be strengthened in the same way as business and management-related concentrations."

Total number of Higher Education institutions in Dubai - 53

Federal institutions - 3

Dubai Government Institutions - 6

Private Universities - 15

Branch Campuses/Higher Education Providers offering international degrees- 29

Total number of new courses in 2009-2010 - 112

List of all courses offered at higher education institutions in Dubai can be found at - www.khda.gov.ae

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