Abu Dhabi: Despite the UAE being the largest investor in the higher education industry across the GCC region, there are still major loop holes in higher education that may result in negative future impacts for the country if not addressed from now.

Out of a population of 40 million in the GCC, the UAE constitutes 13 per cent of that number. However, 200 universities are located in the UAE, which is as high as half the total number of universities across the GCC region, said Dr Nabeel Ebrahim, Chancellor at the Abu Dhabi University (ADU) during his speech on higher education, on day two for the first annual education conference.

During his speech, ‘Higher Education in the 21st Century and the UAE', Dr Ebrahim said: "We are struggling to increase the proportion of students who complete higher education degrees beyond the 20 per cent mark.

"It's important for the ministries of education and higher education to work together to ensure efficient transfer between high school and university. Higher education is critical for the success of the UAE and the GCC's economic diversification plans, to increasing the size of the local middle class, and to lowering the gap between the genders."


Dr Mick Randall described the educational system in the UAE as "complex and deregulated" with a loop hole in courses offered in universities versus what the private market needs.

"Should the knowledge based society be the starting point for discussion of education? What about the old humanistic principles? The old humanistic model of higher education valued personal development, with an emphasis on preparing a well-balanced citizen. The main aim is to prepare employees for the workplace, so the emphasis is on applied knowledge and vocational subjects," Dr Randall said.

State universities do not have as great a focus on business education as the private ones.

"Interestingly, Arabic and Islamic studies are stronger in the private sector. This is worryingly out of balance. Society has become overly focused on economics. There are only two people studying philosophy as a subject in the whole of the UAE, and very few social scientists, mathematicians and generalists," Dr Randall said.