It may not be co-education in the strictest sense of the word but the presence of male students on Zayed University's (ZU) Dubai campus has resulted in nervousness among female students and parents.
Last week ZU Dubai announced it would start admitting around 200 male Emirati students for the academic year 2010-11. Classes for the men will start after the women have finished their classes for the day.
"As long as they come to the campus in the evening ... and classes are separate, I'm okay with it," said Dubai campus student Fatima Al Madani.
"Some conservative families are nervous and will not accept their daughters studying in a mixed environment."
Management Information Systems major Fatima Sayed Al Hashemi also believes men and women should study separately. "Most [private] universities are mixed but there are families who don't want their girls to be distracted by guys."
Shaikha Mohammad, however, thinks "it's a great idea". She said: "Some families don't allow their daughters to study with males but I'm fine with it… my family does not mind."
Dubai Men's College student Sultan Al Ansari said men and women stand to benefit from learning together.
"At the male campuses there are some majors that are not available to us. If they [men] are allowed to go to other campuses they will have more majors to choose from."
Al Ansari added that mixed classes in some fields would be beneficial as both genders would be prepared for the workplace and will also learn from each other's learning styles. "My friends who go to mixed universities say it's good to hear a woman's point of view."
ZU Provost Dr Daniel Johnson said the university had talked to many students and parents about the issue "and the prevailing view is ‘let's wait and see'".
"I think they recognised from the beginning that ZU was moving in this direction and this is not a total surprise."
ZU is not the first federal institution to admit men. Dubai Women's College (DWC) admits men in its paramedic programme.
Johnson said more federal universities, especially those with specialised programmes, will become co-education institutions.
"... engineering programmes in Fujairah are by necessity co-ed. There is a need for more specialised programmes and given the limited resources for programme development, it will force a review of our policies on this."