Deadlines are approaching, the workload is piling up. There is only one thing on your mind — university. Which one shall I go to? Can I get into a good university with my grades? Shall I stay at home or go abroad?

Questions abound, and in this time of confusion that students zoom to university exhibitions like homing pigeons returning to home base. The exhibition was held at Knowledge Horizon and consisted of the stalls and representatives of sixteen institutions. Notes attended the fifth autumn gulf education exhibition, UK education to find some answers to these questions and to see how helpful it was to prospective students.

Students were required to fill, and hand in, an enquiry form to Knowledge Horizon upon arrival, to obtain the contact details of students and to learn the nature of their enquiries.

Application process and entry requirements

All the universities that were present, follow the standard UK application process for undergraduate degrees: Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS). Forms can be obtained from your schools or the British Council.

Applications for a foundation or postgraduate course can be sent to the universities directly. For entry into a first year bachelors degree course, students must have obtained three 'A' levels, the International Baccalaureate diploma or an equivalent qualification. For those who graduated with the local Tawjihi high school qualification, a foundation year is necessary before acceptance into any of the universities.

Foundation courses can be done at a university or even a college. Kaplan Aspect from Edinburgh, which specialises in foundation courses and English language training, was represented at the exhibition.

Do universities provide adequate assistance?

"We provide them with pre-departure briefing and information packs, which tell students what kind of clothes to bring and things like that," said Hussain Dao Abdullah, International Marketing Manager, Brunel University.

Most universities provide transport from the airport, organise orientation weeks and provide language support, to help the students settle in.

"Upon arrival, we also arrange airport pick ups. There is also an orientation week, to introduce new students to the town and the university," Abdullah said.

"Instruction in the English language is also available for those who feel that their English is not upto the level. We offer them free English language classes alongside their courses," he said.

Some universities even provide religious facilities.

"There are many ethnic and religion based clubs and societies to facilitate the meeting of students from similar backgrounds. We also have multi-faith and Islamic prayer rooms on our campus, so students can pray when they want to," he said.

To add to this enquiry into cultural adaptation, a distinctive advantage possessed by many universities in the United Kingdom, is their location in thriving multicultural centres.

Elijah James, International Officer, University of Birmingham said, "Our best courses coincide with those most popular with students from the region: engineering, business, law and physics. We currently have 40 students from the UAE, and from what we have seen they tend to settle in quite well. The university and city itself is multicultural and things like Arabic food and other costumes are available."

"We also have an international welcome week. International students arrive a week before the rest. We show them around and show them how to do things like open a bank account and sign up for a phone contract. In addition to this our International Support Body is always there for anybody having problems, be it visas, language or personal issues," he said.

Students' concerns

Although all the students in attendance had come with the intention of studying abroad, some encountered information that was perceived as a hindrance to this goal.

"I want to do my masters in England but 10,000 pounds for tuition and 8,000 pounds for living expenses is a little overpriced for just one year." said Aarti Arora, BSc biotechnology, MAHE Manipal University in Dubai.

"The application process is not very clear. UCAS is very confusing because it is so centralised. We should be able to apply directly to the universities," Varun added.

Institutions attending the exhibition

Education authorities such as, the British Council, Malaysian Education Promotion Centre, the US Embassy, Abu Dhabi Education Council and the Ministry Of Education, UAE as well as educational institutions like Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, International Islamic University Malaysia, University of Sharjah, The Petroleum Institute, Dubai Aerospace University, Higher Colleges of Technology, Zayed University, UAE University and several other institutions will be showcasing their institutions and giving information.


The Middle East HR Summit will be held along side Najah from today to November 8, 2007, also at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. The region's premier annual conference and exhibition for human resource professionals features an even bigger programme in 2007 with a Pre-Summit Guru Day led by Professor Dave Ulrich, currently the world's leading HR thinker. More than 50 international and regional HR experts will share their expertise at the Summit which offers more than 25 information packed sessions, specialist streams, interactive workshops, a parallel exhibition and the highly respected Middle East HR Summit Excellence Awards.

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Want to study in Dubai?

Also present, was Vinu Abraham, Marketing and Admissions Coordinator from the Heriot-Watt University's Dubai Campus. The Heriot-Watt University's Dubai Campus is based in Academic City, and provides students with the same certification that they would obtain if attending the UK campus. Abraham put forward an informative argument on why students prefer to and do remain in Dubai.

"People from the UAE usually go back home or (if it is not their home) to places like the UK. However, if students, especially girls from this region, whose parents prefer for them to remain in Dubai, can get the same education, while living at home and at half the cost, then why not? In addition to this the Dubai campus' location means that it is surrounded by other institutions putting students in a multicultural environment, whereas in Scotland, there are no other universities for miles."

A parent's perspective

Notes spoke to the parent of a prospective student who expressed his satisfaction with the exhibition.

"This exhibition has been really helpful. It has satisfied many of the concerns I had about sending my child abroad for higher education," said Gamini Dayratna.

Students speak

Most students had praise for the exhibition. "I had some doubts about the grades I needed to get into medical school and extracurricular activities offered by universities abroad. This exhibition definitely cleared my doubts." Said Pramod Chanaka, a Grade Ten student at Dubai Gem Private School.

His thoughts were echoed by Nermin and Moataz Elwasdani, bachelors degree holders from the Arab Academy for Science and Technology, who were looking for postgraduate courses.

"It was very helpful, no complaints whatsoever," they said.
Varun Pahlajani, a graduate of the Emirates International School, emphasised his appreciation of the personal interaction with university representatives " It was good to meet someone from the university itself, rather than just flipping through the prospectuses or browsing the Internet.

They explain the UCAS process thoroughly which is really useful because it is the only way to apply to a university in the UK."

However, some students commented on the pitfalls of the exhibition.

"They are helpful, but I am looking for a university that offers Medicine and so far have only found one. I don't have many options here. However, the good thing is that if you don't find a course in a specific university they do not hesitate to advise you on other universities that have the course," said Ali Hassan, a graduate of Dubai National Charity School.

"There should be more universities, this exhibition has only about ten universities, which is very little when compared to the number of universities actually in the UK. We're not exactly spoilt for choice," said Varun Pahlajani.