Education is not the answer to the question. Education is the means to the answer to all questions.
- William Allin

The UAE has no shortage of world-class education options. Today's generation stands to benefit a great deal from a wholesome local education to guarantee a secure future.

Unlike in the past, today there is a host of courses for working women. Dubai Women's College (DWC) is a prime example. Their courses are specifically designed to lend a particular skill that will lead to employment.

DWC's most recent programmes include a paramedics course and a jewellery business course (a joint programme with Dubai Men's College), which have community sponsors as they meet specific needs in the community.

Ranjit Gajendra, General Manager, Center of Excellence for Research and Training (CERT) Dubai, says, "DWC is a part of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) and DWC's aim has been to develop nationals to actively contribute to the economic and social development of a young nation. Statutory requirements for corporate groups to employ a certain number of UAE nationals will succeed only if these groups can attract, recruit and retain nationals with the right skills and attitudes."

He says, "The insurance sector in particular, has grown into a multi-million-dirham industry. Sadly there are few nationals employed in this sector. To address this Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of Economy, recently signed an MOU with Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, to develop internationally bench-marked insurance programmes for both men and women, to be offered through the Higher Colleges of Technology starting September 2006. This is an indication of the confidence employers have in the quality of graduates coming out of the HCT system."

Gajendra says, "The insurance programme will be 18 months, and will run in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, in partnership with the Higher Insurance Committee. Students enrolling in the programme will benefit from work placements; they will also be able to work and study at the same time and on completion receive an award that is recognised locally as well as internationally."

He says, "The insurance sector has grown as a direct result of the successful economic diversification of the UAE and after banking has been recognised to employ nationals. This initiative, to date has been less than successful. HCT is now stepping in to fill that void and develop young women and men to join this sector."

Explaining the general response to the new courses introduced in the UAE, Dr. Howard Reed, Director, DWC, says, "The response has been very positive. We recently selected the second batch of students for the jewellery programme who began their course work recently. There is a lot of buzz about the programme in the community and we have some excellent students enrolled. The paramedics programme also began a second batch of students in the programme."

Jewellery business

An advanced Diploma in Jewellery Business Management began at the college this year. This 18-month course, open to both female and male UAE nationals, provides students with the specialised foundation to establish and manage their own jewellery businesses.

Furthermore each student gains hands-on experience working in the industry two days per week. The programme is a unique partnership with the Mohammad Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders and Damas. "These students should be very proud of being accepted into the programme, we had very rigorous criteria and an intensive selection process which included an entrepreneurial test," says Dr. Naji Almahdi, Programme Manager.

Another unique course specific to the UAE is the Paramedic Programme, a joint course conducted by DWC and Dubai Men's College and sponsored by the Dubai Police Headquarters. Upon successful completion of the four-year programme, participants will become employees of the Dubai Police Department.

"This programme is a long overdue opportunity for young UAE nationals to serve their country in a vital public service industry," says Reed.

Skyline College offers a range of career programmes tailored to meet the personnel requirements of the aerospace travel and tourism and business management industries. The institute has been successfully churning out candidates in the UAE from 1990. Since all the courses carry IATA certification, a degree with Skyline carries much repute.

Elaborating on the significance of specialised courses, Kamal Puri, President, Skyline College, says, "The UAE has become a hub for different universities around the world to set up here. If the population grows and the demand does not grow, the demand will exceed the requirements of the students. One of the biggest sectors showing growth is travel and tourism. Emirates airline has invested $35 billion (about Dh 129 billion) for new aircraft while more airports are being planned in the UAE. New airlines such as Air Arabia and Etihad Airways have expanded the travel market. It is a known fact that both trade and tourism are big businesses in the UAE. The other growing field is marketing, which explains the demand for a bachelor in marketing."

He says, "The Ministry of Education is the sole body of the UAE government which controls the quality of courses here. They set very high standards and Skyline College meets their criterion. Unfortunately certain free zones don't come under federal law and are not recognised by the Ministry of Higher Education.

"These sometimes mislead students which is why students need to check the relevance of the new courses in the market."

Puri says, "Skyline now offers a BBA in Marketing and a BBA in International Business and IT. We are also launching a BBA in Finance and an MBA in the combined fields of Tourism Marketing and Finance.

"We have had 2,700 graduates to date with a 95-per cent placement rate. We are one of the oldest institutes in the UAE and the only one to be recognised by the Ministry of Education. We allow transfer of credits anywhere in the world as our degrees are accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education."

The Event Management Development Institute (EMDI) offers a one-year diploma course. Aimed at non-conventional students, applicants vary from the age of 17 to 50.

Zareen Khan from EMDI says, "We are open to anyone, from a homemaker to a business manager who wants to get into event management. We conduct interviews at the time of enrollment to make sure that students share the same attitude and aptitude."

She says, "Our course is held three days a week and we do not have conventional teachers but invite members from the industry to share their expertise. We offer a compulsory internship programme and encourage students to attend events taking place to get hands-on experience. Fifty per cent of our students have regular jobs and take up this course to improve their prospects."

The American University of Sharjah (AUS) has come a long way since its inception in 1997. It hosts more than 4,100 students from 74 countries, with a highly qualified and experienced full-time faculty of more than 240.

The AUS is licensed in the US by the Department of Education of the State of Delaware.

It is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and is also licensed by the UAE Ministry of Education. All of its undergraduate and graduate programmes are recognised by the ministry and have been awarded either accreditation or accreditation-eligible status.

The university currently offers 20 bachelor's degrees, 22 minors, six master's degrees and five graduate certificate programmes, with three new bachelor's degrees in mathematics, chemistry, and arts and applied sciences slated to begin next academic year, subject to initial accreditation by the UAE Ministry of Education.

Great response

"There is a strong demand for the new programmes that we plan on introducing in the future. Considering the rapid pace of industrial and economic development currently taking place in the region, these degree courses are eliciting a great response and are certain to prove popular with the students as well as the marketplace," says Dr. Winfred Thompson, Chancellor, AUS.

As an independently accredited institution of higher learning, AUS is renowned throughout the region for its excellent standard of education. Its graduates have been admitted to some of the most competitive and prestigious universities in the world, including Harvard, MIT and Columbia, among others.

The University of Wollongong in Dubai is among the many institutes housed in the Knowledge Village. Some of the new courses at the university include a Master of Business Administration, Master of International Business, Master of Applied Finance and Banking and a Bachelor of Internet Science and Technology.

Explaining the significance of new courses Professor Nicholas van der Walt, Chief Executive Officer at the University of Wollongong, says, "We believe that there is a strong demand for new programmes of study. However, the students' interest in particular constituent subjects may vary. However, it is necessary to include them to give the students the requisite understanding and background knowledge that employers expect of graduates with the degree."