A sudden influx of foreign universities and colleges within the UAE has led to increasing choices for students wishing to pursue their education here.

"With this very wide range of possibilities, each student must approach the selection of an institution of higher education with great care and caution," warns Dr. Larry Wilson, Provost of Zayed University. "The best way to judge the quality of an institution is to ask the following questions: a) Does it offer the programmes in which I am interested? b) Is it accredited?"

Accreditation means that its programmes have been carefully reviewed by an independent agency and found to meet the standards of the accrediting agency, he says. "If an institution is not accredited, I urge you to immediately drop it from your list."

According to Dr. Abdullah Al Karam, CEO, Dubai Knowledge Village, "Points to look for in a good institution are the strength of their relationship with the industry, whether courses offer the latest know-how and what career development opportunities and programmes they offer. Teaching facilities and curricula should meet industrial standards and the best practices taught in the academic world must come straight from the industry."

"As a starting point, the UAE Ministry of Education website provides a list of all the licensed institutions and a list of all accredited programmes, which is a very useful resource for students," says Marilyn Miles, University Development Officer, British University in Dubai. "Students also need to think carefully about what they want to study, how they want to learn, the kind of skills they want to develop and what they want to get out of the whole university experience and then look for an institution that meets their needs."

The student also has to find answers to questions often not found on the internet, says Dr. Wilson. "These include the graduation rate of the institution — how many of them actually graduate and over how much time; the credentials of the faculty and their research interests; the services offered to help one adjust to college or university life; the most popular majors and what opportunities the institution offers in helping the student decide upon his or her major."

"Research publications of faculty members in international academic journals ensures that the lecturer in the classroom is relevant, up-to-date and of international standing," says Professor Nick van der Walt, Chief Executive Officer, University of Wollongong in Dubai.

"As you are entrusting your future to an institution, ensure that when you approach the university, the administrative and teaching staff give you all the time you wish," he says. "If they do not have the time to assist with your life-changing decisions and are only trying to get your fees, you can be sure that they won't give you time later."