Bright future: From left: Ashwaq Bin Qafleh, Susan George and Vijaylakshmi at Amity University in Dubai Academic City. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/XPRESS

Dubai: It would be a gross understatement to say higher education in the UAE is an expensive affair. But as an XPRESS survey of five universities reveals, that’s just one side of the story.

Figures show that at least 15 to 20 per cent of university students are on some form of scholarship with UAE universities offering under-graduate and post-graduate programmes with scholarships running into hundreds of thousands of dirhams to attract meritorious and financially challenged students to their campuses. And not just from the UAE either. Colleges are offering plenty in terms of incentives to students from all over the world.

Take Amity University, Dubai for instance. Established in September 2011 and located in Academic City, this relatively new university has 125 scholarships for its 750 students. Last year, the university gave away approximately Dh38 million worth of scholarships from its campuses worldwide.

Every girl enrolling at Amity automatically gets a 10 per cent tuition fee discount under the college’s special scholarship programme for girls. In addition, Emiratis, siblings, sports achievers and financially challenged students benefit from some sort of scholarship at the university. But it gets even better for first-year under-graduates who score 93 per cent and more in their Grade 12 exams as they qualify for a 100 per cent scholarship for a year.

top grades

“For students to get 100 per cent scholarship from their second year onwards, they must achieve a cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 9 points and more in the previous year. Should they get this, students are informed before the start of the new year that they have been granted 100 per cent tuition fee waiver,” Mariam Shaikh, Assistant Vice-President of Student Recruitment and Marketing, said.

Eighteen-year-old Vijaylakshmi Vedantham is currently in her second year of B.Tech Engineering course at Amity. She scored an overall 97 per cent in her Grade 12 board exams and automatically received a 100 per cent scholarship from Amity. What’s more, she secured a CGPA of more than 9.5 points in the first year, making her eligible for a full scholarship for her second year engineering programme as well.

“I am truly blessed. My father works in an automotive company and my mother is a housewife. If I had not got the 100 per cent scholarship, I would have been back in India studying and paying for my college fees. Amity is a great university. In my class there are five other students getting 100 per cent scholarship and every other person I know in the college is on some form of scholarship or the other,” she said.


Full scholarship

Ashwaq Bin Qafleh is a bright young Emirati determined to pursue a career in forensic science. “My CGPA last year was 9.3 points, thereby allowing me a 100 per cent scholarship this year. I am determined to better the average this year in order to get a full tuition fee waiver next year as well,” she said. Ashwaq lives with her mother and three siblings in Dubai. “My father passed away two years ago and this scholarship means a lot.”

Another university offering 100 per cent scholarship is Murdoch University. Established in 2008, it has so far given full scholarships to six students.

Last month, Shahra Ali, a housemaid’s daughter, received an unexpected 100 per cent scholarship from Murdoch University Dubai for her Computer Science under-graduate studies. Her family, who could not afford her fees, was pleasantly surprised when Murdoch offered Shahra a complete tuition fee waiver under special circumstances.

“Our scholarships generally vary from 10 to 25 per cent of the total tuition fee which amounts to Dh15,000 to Dh45,000 depending upon the degree being pursued. In exceptional circumstances of full tuition scholarships, the total scholarship amount can be as high as Dh180,000,” said Dan Adkins, the university’s Academic Director.

The Emirates College for Management and Information Technology (ECMIT), located at Al Nahda 2, has a big budget for scholarships as well. Besides the Ministry approved BBA course costing around Dh110,000, plans are also afoot to start MBA courses next year. Last year, the college gave out a staggering Dh750,000 in scholarships to its students. Anita Nanda, Manager of Admissions and Marketing, said: “At any given time, 60 per cent of our students get some form of fee discounts from us. Those scoring 80 per cent to 85 per cent in Grade 12 are entitled to a five per cent tuition fee discount for their first semester. Those scoring 86 per cent to 89 per cent in Grade 12 get a 10 per cent tuition fee waiver and those with 90 per cent and more get a 15 per cent discount from us.

“Although this discount is valid only for the first semester, academically inclined students who make it to the college’s Dean’s and President’s list get more tuition fee discounts for the following semesters. We also offer tuition fee discounts under special circumstances.”


Special circumstances

Nanda added: “One of our Egyptian students, Abdel Rahman, who joined our college in the fall of 2013, is on a scholarship for special circumstances. He is an ace student, but halfway through the first semester, his mother fell ill and his father had to cough up Dh70,000 for her treatment. His father, who is a practising doctor in Dubai, could not afford his son’s high college fees and applied for financial aid with us. We decided to give him a 30 per cent discount, so he could continue.”

Recently, Middlesex University Dubai announced a new scheme to reward its meritorious students up to Dh60,000 in scholarships. The university will also give out scholarships of Dh45,000 and Dh25,000 to deserving under-graduates, besides offering grants of Dh10,000 to post-graduate applicants enrolling by January 16.

“Our scholarship schemes are geared to attract high-calibre students,” said Wassim Hamadah, Marketing Manager.

“Many students work incredibly hard during their secondary schooling and such students deserve to be awarded.”

Middlesex offers over 30 under-graduate and post-graduate programmes and is launching two new programmes this year: a three-year bachelor honours degree in Arts in Early Childhood studies and a one-year post-graduate programme in Higher Education.

Ras Al Khaimah-based Western International College (WINC) is also offering some unique scholarships. It has a special Women in Engineering scholarship programme in which all girls enrolling in any of their Civil, Mechanical, Electrical and Electronics Engineering courses will straightway get a 10 per cent tuition discount. Boys can also get a merit scholarship from the university. “While we want to encourage girls to pursue Engineering, we don’t want the boys to be left behind. Our merit scholarships vary from 10 to 50 per cent depending on the academic level of the student,” explained Raj Nambiar, Director of Administration.

Typically, a three-year Civil and Mechanical Engineering course at WINC costs around Dh100,000.

“Other scholarship schemes include a 10 per cent tuition waiver for all under-graduates registering at WINC from a Ras Al Khaimah-based school. In addition, toppers of any school from the UAE get a 100 per cent scholarship,” said Nambiar.


Topper offer

A case in point is Jaweriya Naz, in her first year Accounting and Finance at WINC, and on a 100 per cent scholarship from the university because she topped Grade 12 at the Indian Public School Ras Al Khaimah.

With over 400 students registered with them, WINC gave away Dh750,000 worth of scholarships in 2013.

“Every year, almost 50 per cent of our students get scholarships,” Nambiar added.

New York University Abu Dhabi gives away scholarships to deserving students in a bid to attract talented students from all over the world.

“We are committed to attracting and educating exceptionally talented students from around the world. NYU Abu Dhabi provides financial support in the form of need-based grants to those who qualify. Every admitted student is also automatically considered for merit-based fellowships. Regardless of the financial circumstances, we strive to attract the best possible students from around the world.

“The Office of Financial Support will tailor the university’s financial assistance programme to the individual educational needs. Financial support will ensure that the cost of attendance does not require students or their families to take on debt for supporting education,” a spokesperson at the university said.

The University of Wollongong in Dubai offers 15 to 50 per cent scholarships to its students.

“One hundred per cent scholarships are given on a discretionary basis. Scholarships are awarded based on academic performance and a combination of academic and sporting achievement. A small number of students are currently in receipt of a 100 per cent scholarship,” said Sandra Lee, University Registrar.

Eighteen-year-old Ritik Bagchi, a first year undergraduate of a four-year B.Com accounting course, is on a 50 per cent sports scholarship with Wollongong.

Ritik, who passed out his Grade 12 from Delhi Private School in Sharjah, has played cricket for the UAE.

Moiz Quresh Goga, 20, who has just completed his first year B.Com Management from UOWD is on a 40 per cent scholarship after scoring one A* and five As in his IG exams from Dubai Gems Private School.