Dubai: Thousands of UAE-based students and their parents have achieved greater clarity on their university plans, thanks to another successful edition of the Gulf News EduFair, which concluded on Saturday in Dubai.
To guide students on all matters related to the September intake and beyond – from admission requirements to study programmes, scholarships, career counselling, campus life, and more – the onsite edition of the three-day event was held at Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai.
Not only were more than 2,500 students and parents able to meet dozens of senior university representatives face-to-face – after a gap of more than a year for such an event to be held onsite in the UAE, under all precautionary measures – but they also heard from leading experts on navigating the ever-changing job market, especially during the COVID-pandemic.
Abdul Hamid Ahmad, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, and Executive Director Publications, Gulf News, said the one-stop-shop format of the event reduced students’ timeline to search for their first-choice university, from months to just days.
“I would like to take the opportunity to thank all our sponsors for the support extended by them to help us make the EduFair into the resounding success it was. It was an extensive effort and a remarkable achievement for all involved. A special thank you to UAE University and all the other universities for their active participation,” Ahmad said.
“It was a landmark three-day event of its nature, which offered students and educational institutions alike, the venue to connect with face-to-face interaction after a long time, thereby encouraging greater return on engagement for all involved.
“The considerable choices that were on offer for students and their parents to evaluate in one place meant that what would have otherwise taken them weeks and probably months to discover, study and understand, was encapsulated to three days of high quality exposure.”
He added: “The success and demand seen at the event is testament to the fact that the UAE has fast become a higher education hub with its top-notch facilities, wide spectrum of international and UAE institutions, while offering a safe and secure environment for students to pursue their dreams.
“In today’s day and age when young people are seeking interesting and new educational options, the UAE gives them that freedom while being in a place where their safety is guaranteed. Going forward, I expect to see the UAE’s higher education hub to grow, evolve and scale even greater heights.”
Making a comeback
Anshuman R. Joshi, Director – Sales and Marketing, Gulf News, said: “The success of the Gulf News EduFair is the surest sign that the events industry is primed to make a huge comeback in the last quarter of 2021. The event also showcased the agility of UAE’s fledgling education sector to adapt to the complex and ever-changing challenges confronting both students and parents in the wake of the global pandemic.”
Staying close to home
Joshi added: “Considering the massive strides universities in the UAE have made in increasing both the quantity and quality of their academic output, we believe an growing number of undergraduates will prefer studying here than abroad.”
Exhibitors at the event said the university fair also connected aspiring professionals with future employers. Speaking on Saturday, Clint Khan, Director, Y-Axis, said: “My experience at EduFair has been great. We’ve got crowds coming into the stalls, getting career advice and Gulf News has done a great job. We’re providing that career advice under ‘Destination UAE’; advising them how to approach the right university; what’s the right course for them; what kind of budget they have in mind; and making sure that they get the right career advice.”
Meeting candidates again
Fatima Ahsan, part of the marketing team of Middlesex University Dubai, the “best part” of the event for her has been the opportunity to meet prospective students in person again. “I would like to thank Gulf News for organising this event. We had the opportunity to talk to a lot of prospective students who would like to join us. I think this has been the first event that we got to meet them face to face, and that’s the best part of it all.”
Ahsan’s team met over 700 attendees at the event. “That’s going to also help our university; it always has at EduFair.”
The first edition of the event was held virtually in November 2020.
Zawahir Siddique, associate dean and head of blended learning at Westford University College, Sharjah, said the first in-person edition of the fair was a “bold step”, adding he was pleasantly surprised to see a high turnout. “We’ve had a good response at kiosk as well; a lot of inquiries. It looks like people are looking forward to go out of their homes and explore university prospects. I had not expected such an overwhelming turnout.”
Bhakti Reen, Admissions Manager, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Dubai, said: “I think it’s been a great experience. We’ve seen a steady footfall and it was all conducted keeping health and safety in mind. It’s been a great opportunity for students as well, to come and explore all the options for studying in the UAE.”
Over the course of the event’s three days, a number of panel discussions, seminars and workshops were also held. Top UAE educators spoke about the future of higher education and why universities must innovate to succeed. They also discussed how the pandemic has disrupted the higher education sector and moved universities to rethink effective student learning experiences.
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Students must learn life skills and not just focus on academics to boost employability and forge a rewarding career path, consultants said. Another panel heard from young men and women who choose offbeat careers in fast-growing sectors, such as social media and entertainment, instead of the more common fields of business or engineering.
Parents and students who came to the event praised Gulf News for organising the EduFair. Akhtar Hasam, a parent, said: “It was always nice to talk to people personally as we were able to get more information on university admissions, unlike during online or virtual events.”
Charting a path
Palestinian student Yasmin Al Shamali, 17, said: “I enjoyed coming to EduFair because I was able to talk to university officials face-to-face and they gave me valuable advice on my options for college. Coming to this EduFair has helped me decide on my future academic path.”