More exposure
Sarosh Rahimtula is an English language instructor who has been working for HCT for 10 years.

She believes the UAE is doing very well in the field of education compared to other countries around the world. Although she believes students are prepared to meet challenges, she says they need more "exposure".

"I know that they are already doing it. Dubai is an international hub where they can come across people from many cultures. There is a need for them to interact more with people from different backgrounds."

Rahimtula said the overall quality of students has been improving with each year. "Now, I feel that they have one foot firmly planted on the ground and the other leaping ahead," she said.

Industry mentors
Brian Keenan is head of the development division at Dubai Women's College, where he has been working for the past 14 years. He believes that opportunities in the UAE have "exploded".

"The situation has changed from what it used to be in the past 10 years. Zayed University and HCT are no longer the [only] players in the education arena. Many other universities have opened up, which forces all institutes to continuously evaluate their performance," he said.

However, Keenan thinks that the biggest challenge universities and colleges face is producing graduates who have the skills and knowledge to enter the workplace.

"We need graduates who will be able meet the challenges of the real world and who will never stop learning," he said.

Keenan added that it is vital to incorporate the needs of the job market in college curricula.

"I also believe that it is important for final year students to have mentors in the industry to help them make the shift from college to work and introduce them to the real world," he said.

Keenan described these times as "exciting" for those involved in higher education, particularly in Dubai. "There are so many opportunities in the business world and to maximise these, it is important for us to take risks," he said.

But what are the challenges facing students now?

"In terms of technology, students are better with the passing of each year. The biggest challenge, however, is the transition from public schools to college where the language of instruction is English," Keenan explained.

Serious students
Gary Pathare has been working as an instructor at the Learning Centre in Dubai Men's College for four-and-a-half years. He is happy to see how education is evolving in the country. His evaluation of higher education in the country is "very good" and "appropriate".

He talked about the importance of setting high educational standards and participating in designing school curricula.

He described the budget cut at HCT as a challenge. As for the students, he stressed: "They are improving a lot. They have become more serious about education."

A newcomer's perspective
Nicholas Rea is a new faculty member who recently joined Dubai Men's College as an English instructor. Before coming to the UAE two weeks ago, he had spent 11 years in Cambodia.

"It was time for a change. This country and its culture are very attractive," he said.

In Cambodia, Rea was teaching English at international private schools, and as such he felt it was time to join the higher education sector. "There are more opportunities," he said.

About the sector here, he said two things came to mind. "The government has worked to build a strong higher education infrastructure and is also recruiting professionals to teach. They are not looking for cheap hands, but internationally recognised, top quality staff."

Rea said that during his work in Cambodia, he regularly came across many privileged students who did not have to try for anything and got whatever they wanted.

He said he hoped to meet hardworking students who are motivated to become achievers.