Gone are the days when students would settle for crowded classrooms and dorms, sharing lab tools and textbooks, and cheap food. These days, students and parents want their money's worth. They are paying considerable money for their education and they feel the facilities should match up.

Notes spoke to officials from the Skyline College, Sharjah, which this year set up a new high-tech campus in University City, Sharjah, and the American College of Dubai to find out whether this perception holds true in the case of UAE students and their parents.

What do they look for in terms of college facilities? And do universities here meet their demands?

Quality and cost

Anuradha Vyas of the Student Services Department, Skyline College, Sharjah, says: "In my opinion, parents and students look for quality and affordability of education. Also, most importantly they look for how many job opportunities a degree can provide to the student."

She added: "Of course the cost of education in this part of the world is relatively higher and that's precisely the reason parents and students look for higher standards of teaching and supportive facilities. First of all, the faculty plays a very decisive factor for anyone choosing a university. Also very important is the infrastructure of the institution. One more very crucial factor is the overall reputation and reliability of the institution in the educational and business domains."

How cool must a university appear

"I don't think that "the university cool" factor is very important. Without doubt, the educational environment in the UAE is not very competitive and students are not very oriented towards self-study and research. But rather than having a cool factor as a motto, the universities and colleges should devise new ways to motivate the students and help create a healthy learning environment," says Vyas.

"Definitely, students don't want to be treated as mere disciples who will even sit under a tree to learn something; they want to be treated as consumers or customers who are paying to get the best educational facilities.

"The good universities are surely being able to provide whatever is necessary to meet customer satisfaction in terms of quality of education and infrastructural facilities."

According to Dr Poonam Singh, Dean of Faculty/Academic Affairs, American College of Dubai: "Balanced exchange has almost always been a rule. Like in the past and even today everyone desires a good deal. I believe parents look for a safe and secure environment, an environment which is conducive to learning, outstanding instructors, good teaching resources — library, audio-visual aids, internet access and teaching methods that help in the overall development of the student, thus turning him/her into a responsible and accountable young adult. Many schools and colleges meet these demands. Our faculty are committed and dedicated, and from time to time they are trained to provide and bring out the best in their students."

So what do students look for?

From the wide range of student opinions we received, it seems fairly clear that they value the standards of education offered first and foremost.

"The most important thing while considering a college is the quality of education and the recognition of its degree," says Sheeba Bashir, a business administration student from Skyline College, Sharjah. Sahar Ali Abbany, also a business administration student at Skyline, adds that "a fun college life as well as qualitative studies" are prerequisites.

Asma Masood of Skyline says: "While selecting a college I feel one should consider the quality of education provided there. I also feel the environment of the college plays a very important role."

Amah Nusri of Skyline, agrees: "The college atmosphere plays a major role in selecting a college."

First think of your major

Cassandra Fernandez, a business student at the American College of Dubai, says: "First of all, it depends on the course you want to do, you can consider choosing which country you want to study in and finally you must see which college is ideal for you and that meets your requirements."

Her college peer Alisha Fernandez emphasised costs. "I think cost is most important, also the campus should be good in terms of facilities etc, and qualified teachers are important too."

Affaq Elahi of Skyline says: "I think that the recognition of its degree plays a very important role while selecting a college."

Salma Sulthana, a Bachelor of Science and Information Technology, says that the "fee factor, the location of the university, the academic system it follows and the kind of discipline maintained is also pretty much significant when choosing a university".

Charmaine Jullian Wayers, a business student at ACD, also cites co-curricular activities and professors as important factors. "I feel the environment of the college, fee budget, facilities and co-curricular activities, and professors are most important," she says.

Pooja Suvarna of finance at ACD adds: "I believe the course, the overall rank of the university especially when you are looking at options abroad, and student life are relevant."

Alisha Khare sums it up. "I guess the subject, the university campus, cost and location are the most important factors," says the ACD business student.

What parents think

“The financial factor and campus settings, that is college environment are definitely the top priorities.''
— Pramila Suvarna

“First and foremost, it is the course your child wants to take up so that it can contribute to getting a good job; the reputation of the university is important but the most important factor for a parent is the financial factor.''
— Wajida Wazir

“The affiliation of the university, image of the institution in the job market and affordability are fundamental.''
— Gulam Hussain

“The ability of the institution to command discipline, the location of the college and of course the experience and efficiency of the faculty is significant.''
— Razia Salim