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Abu Dhabi announces the Khotwa (RizeUp) scholarship programme on Thursday to provide study opportunities to 6,000 Emirati students by 2028. Photo of the Emiratis students and job seekers attending the ‘Ru’ ya, Careers UAE Redefined’ job fair in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Abu Dhabi launched the Khotwa (RizeUp) scholarship programme on Thursday to provide study opportunities to 6,000 Emirati students by 2028.

The beneficiary students will be enrolled in programmes that will help them find employment in sectors considered to be high priority for development. Khotwas was launched under the directives of Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Office. Khaled Bin Zayed is also chairman of Abu Dhabi’s private and charter education regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek).

Dh1.9 billion programme

The Dh1.9 billion programme aims to enhance academic capabilities while providing Emirati students who have not previously received scholarships with future-ready skills and broad educational experiences that will, in tun, enable them to achieve their full potential while contributing to the growth of Abu Dhabi’s knowledge-based economy.

The fully-funded scholarship programme will create opportunities for students to study for two years at community colleges in the US and Canada, before transferring their credit to any international or local university to complete their bachelor’s degrees, when necessary requirements are met.

“This landmark programme is a strategic investment by Abu Dhabi Government to continue nurturing future-ready Emirati bachelor’s degree holders. Khotwa (RizeUp) will empower students who have not benefited from our previous scholarships to study at international colleges and universities and graduate as highly competent, effective and productive citizens capable to enrich our national employment pool and play an active role in driving forward our knowledge-based economy,” said Sara Musallam, Minister of State for Early Education and Adek chairperson.

Graduate scholars

“Building on the success of employment rates exceeding 90 per cent among Adek’s scholarship graduates, we recognise the potential in providing opportunities. Consequently, we have expanded the scholarship matrix to include specific academic specialisations — selected in close cooperation with government, national, and private entities — that will further enhance our graduate scholars’ employability in the short, medium and long-term,” she added.

Adek aims to enrol 100 in the first Khotwa cohort this year, with numbers set to increase annually to reach a total of 6,000 scholarship beneficiaries by 2028.

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Scholarship criteria

Students at public, private and charter schools across Abu Dhabi with a minimum GPA of 65 per cent in their Grade 12 final exams are eligible to apply for the Khotwa (RizeUp), provided they score a minimum of 3.0 in IELTS tests. The same criteria apply for National Service Graduates who do not hold a bachelor’s degree. Priority will be given to candidates whose families are receiving social support.

This more accessible admission criteria enable a greater number of Emirati students who did not previously receive scholarships to study abroad in areas that fulfil their passion and also address the demands of the nation’s high-priority sectors.

For those who do not yet have the English proficiency levels to pursue post-high school studies at North American community colleges., the programme will also cover the costs of one additional year of English language studies for candidates, to be undertaken in the host country.

Candidates joining Khotwa (RizeUp) must commit to a homestay program during the two-year community college period, where students will reside with local families carefully selected by Adek, or with reputable homestay organisations across North America.

High-priority sectors

The launch of the Khotwa (RizeUp) programme follows Adek’s comprehensive analysis of its scholarship offerings to identify key challenges facing Emirati students wanting to study abroad. The data-driven analysis has resulted in several major enhancements to existing scholarship programmes, including the introduction of new specialities to improve graduates’ employability, address priority industry needs, and supplement the current and future needs of the UAE economy.

Shortlisted candidates must attend a mandatory five-day bootcamp at Adek headquarters in October to assess their readiness for overseas study and homestay programs.

“The bootcamp will follow a program of behavioural interviews and self-assessments, group case studies, role play and situational simulation, and soft skills training,” said Dr. Bashaer Almatrooshi, acting executive director for talent enablement at the Adek.

“It will be a developmental experience for successful applicants and those who may not qualify this time around. Those selected must meet key criteria including a willingness and ability to learn in new settings,” she said.

Successful applicants are set to leave the UAE for their assigned community college and homestay program in January 2023.

“The homestay program will be a positive academic and cultural experience that will help students hone their English language skills, and promote international understanding. Selected homestay families will be respectful of different religious beliefs, cultures, and values, and our students will be expected to reciprocate and be equally respectful towards their hosts,” Dr Almatrooshi said.

In addition to covering tuition fees and living costs throughout their homestay program at community college, as well as their bachelor’s degree, Khotwa (RizeUp) enrollees will also receive living allowances, as well as continuous one-on-one advisory support from Adek’s academic counsellors throughout the programme.