Back to college
Colleges in the UAE are also going out of their way to ease the point of entry for their upcoming student intakes, with scholarships and incentives. The UAE Golden Visa programme for meritorious students has been another big hit. Image Credit: Unsplash

Dubai: With the UAE’s college admission season approaching, parents will have to consider taking on higher interest rate bearing loans if they haven’t made adequate budgeting.

In many cases, parents find they are falling short on the savings side as the Covid scenario upended even the most meticulous planning. Some had been relying on setting aside their annual bonuses for the education purposes - and those bonuses never came. Others had difficulty on the job situation and an alternate employment option may have come through later than they expected.

A recent GCC-wide survey by the insurer Zurich International found 87 per cent of UAE parents polled were anxious about the tuition fees for their children’s higher education. Only 38 per cent had an education savings plan in place, and 39 per cent of families in the UAE were digging deeper into their savings to pay for the course fees. In comparison, 15 per cent resorted to taking personal loans to take care of the needs.

Holding the line on fees

One major positive for parents would be many popular colleges in the UAE are refraining from raising course fees for the 2023 intakes. In addition, varsities are easing the path by offering fairly generous scholarships and easy-to-pay monthly payment plans.

Dr. James Trotter, Dean and Academic President of Murdoch University Dubai, said, “We reduced our fees across the board during the pandemic, and due to rising inflation pressures globally, we have not raised them after. We currently offer our degrees at a lower price than we offered in 2019.”

We have scholarships ranging from 15-40 per cent, based on academic merit.

- Dr. James Trotter

Opting for monthly payment plans

Monthly instalments are another payment option gaining in popularity. “The fees can be paid in instalments across the trimester,” said Trotter.

The cost of education normally rises at a slower rate than inflation. We have a guaranteed fee policy where tuition fees will remain the same as at their point of entry, irrespective of the inflation rate.

- Dr. Cedwyn Fernandes, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University and Director of Middlesex University Dubai

Cost savings

Some pupils also choose to study part-time, wherein they can stagger fee payments as semesters progress. “Instead of taking four courses, students can take two instead,” said Trotter. “They would take longer to graduate. However, the cost per semester drops in this case.”

More interest in online

Pupils also learn via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to supplement their education while saving money.

“There is a shift in people’s approach towards education,” said Imbesat Ahmad, CEO and Founder of Filo, a live instant learning platform. “The focus is on skill development, and that gives them an edge.

Online courses and degrees are doing well as pupils can do their undergraduate degrees from nominal universities and choose to learn shorter certificate courses from Ivy League universities or Oxford, for example.

- Imbesat Ahmad

Popular courses include shorter-term courses in coding, Big Data, language, and certificate programmes in data science.

UAE enrolments on the rise

Several factors drive UAE students to continue their higher education in the Emirates. “Providing high achieving students with Golden Visas is one factor that has contributed to keeping students in the UAE,” said Trotter.

Murdoch University Dubai’s enrolment has grown 80-100 per cent compared to 2019. Admissions from international markets drive demand.

Varun Jain, Founder and CEO, UniHawk, a Dubai-based education consultancy, said, “UAE parents have moved away from earlier misconceptions that UAE is not the place for higher education. Moreover, parents are taking decisions based on what works for them.”

Jain said, “There are options for children of every calibre in the UAE. While the cost of higher education has increased in the UAE over the years, parents can opt to study at the University of Bolton’s campus in RAK, for example, where the fee is Dh20,000. This is less than school fees.”

Many international students also choose UAE as their college. “There are an increasing number of enrolments from other GCC countries,” said Jain.

Golden Visa

Moreover, outstanding students are taking advantage of the Golden Visa programme.

They are not only choosing to stay back to study, but also sponsoring their parents as well as permitted under the new visa regulations.

- Claire Roper-Browning, Regional Director for Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Communications, Heriot-Watt University Dubai
Ways to finance college fees
Savings: Given the increasing costs for higher education, parents must begin saving well in advance to afford admissions to the sought-after colleges.

Grants and scholarships: Several universities offer scholarships based on academic merit, financial need, and other criteria to offset at least part of the tuition fee. Heriot-Watt University Dubai will soon announce the Ramadan Community Award of Dh8,000 for students applying and paying the tuition fee deposit by April for the September 2023 intake.

Loans: Some parents take out student loans to help pay for their child’s education. In the UAE, a maximum education loan amount of Dh300,000 is permitted.

New visas: Recent visa regulations now allow teenagers aged 15-18 to apply for a part-time work permit. Some parents encourage their children to finance their higher education through part-time work partly.