Number of UAE Students Choosing to Study in US Drops, Report Shows

2014 World University Rankings Worrying evidence of US declineBy Roberta Pennington for the National

The number of students from the Middle East studying in a college or university in the United States dropped by 8.4 per cent, according to the latest data from the Institute of International Education (IIE).

During the academic year 2016-2017, there were 92,470 students from the Middle East enrolled in a college or university in the US, down from 100,926 in 2015-2016, according to the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange published in November by the IIE with support from the US Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The decline is the first to be recorded for this region in more than 10 years, according to the IIE, which has been collecting statistical data on international students in US campuses for nearly a century.

Dean Hoke, co-founder of Edu Alliance, a higher education consultancy firm founded in Abu Dhabi and with an office in the US, said a combination of factors have contributed to the decreasing number of students.

“Certainly the social and political climate has created a chilling effect on Middle East students coming to the United States to study,” said Mr Hoke, adding that the fall in oil prices has also cut into foreign education budgets in countries like Saudi Arabia, which sends the fourth largest number of students to the United States.

Since 2006, the number of students from the Middle East studying in the US had been steadily rising, with most years recording double-digit, year-over-year growth. Following the launch of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) in 2005 – which covered the full education, travel and living expenses of thousands of Saudis annually to study abroad – the population of Middle Eastern post-secondary students in the US quickly multiplied from 22,321 in 2006 to a peak of 100,926 in 2015.

But in 2016, the Saudi government announced new KASP eligibility criteria for prospective students wishing to study abroad, according to Reuters. The new rules were proposed by a council that is “reining in state spending and seeking greater efficiency in many areas to narrow a huge state budget deficit caused by low oil prices.”

“The tighter requirements look likely to bring down government spending on a program many young Saudis have come to view as an entitlement,” according to Reuters. “For example, it said students applying for funding after enrolling in institutions abroad must be in one of the world’s top 50 academic programs in their field or top 100 universities, as determined by the Saudi Ministry of Education. They must also maintain minimum grade point averages.”

Saudi Arabia experienced the biggest year-over-year decline among the Middle Eastern countries in 2016-2017 academic year, according to IIE. There were 52,611 Saudis studying in the US in 2016-2017, a drop of 14.2 per cent compared to the year before. In its report, the IIE attributed the decline in part to a “scaling back” of the KASP scholarship program.

A 2016 trade report published by the US Department of Commerce forecasts that the number of Saudi post-secondary students in the US will fall below 50,000 by the year 2020.

“Due to the recent decline in oil prices and revenues, the flow of students from Saudi Arabia studying in the United States could decline in the near future,” according to the International Trade Administration report. “Additionally, Saudi Arabia is investing considerable resources into its domestic education infrastructure, particularly at the post -secondary level, which may encourage more Saudis to study domestically.”

The UAE, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine and Qatar also had fewer students studying in post-secondary institutions in the US in 2016-2017.

For the UAE, the decline is also the first in 10 years. The number of Emiratis studying in the US had been climbing annually since the 2006-07 academic year. The UAE went from sending 885 students that year to reaching a peak of 2,920 students in 2015-16. That number decreased by 167 students, or 5.7 per cent, last academic year.

Experts said enrolment of international students from the Middle East studying in the United States may decrease further, due to the growth of online education, improved higher education opportunities at home, increased competition among English-speaking countries and a festering anti-Muslim bias under US President Donald Trump.

“We did ask institutions about their concerns and we did hear from some institutions that they are concerned about both the social and political climate in the US this year, and they are particularly concerned about the students from the Middle East, but also students from Asia,” said Rajika Bhandari, IIE’s head of research, policy and practice. “Institutions are worried that students should continue to see the US as being both competitive and welcoming.”

While the number of overall international students to the US increased by 3 per cent to 1.08 million, the number of new undergraduate enrolments declined for the first time in 12 years.

Mr Hoke said US colleges and universities need to revise their international strategic recruitment plans in light of these new social, economic and political challenges.

“Middle East students and their parents need to know the university and the community they reside is a safe and welcoming environment, the quality of education is of high value and worth the investment,” said Mr Hoke. “Universities big and small need to re-enforce the concept to their community at large that Middle Eastern students mean more than just revenue.”

UAE Higher Education Year-End Review

KUSTARBy Sami Zaatari for the Gulf News

was another big year for higher education in the UAE in 2017, with several key developments including university mergers, a new higher education strategy announced in December, and continued moves up the ranks for UAE-based universities.

National Higher Education Strategy

Announced in December by the Ministry of Education, the new strategy is a comprehensive integrated programme aimed at strengthening the country’s higher education standards according to international benchmarks. The strategy is based on four main pillars: quality, relevance, innovation, and efficiency. According to officials, the programme will improve the skill levels of students, and also respond to the market needs of the country. The new strategy will be rolled out over phases, and will also partner with the private sector to ensure that subjects are relevant to what companies are looking for in the job market.

Merged universities start classes

In 2016, it was announced that Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, Khalifa University, and the Petroleum Institute would be merging into one combined institute. Less than a year after the announcement, the plan became official when the new university — Khalifa University of Science and Technology — officially started its classes as one merged institution in August this year, with 3,500 students enrolled across its undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. With the merger, the three universities have been able to pool all of their resources together, creating more opportunities for cutting edge research as well as more options for prospective students.

UAE University rankings continue to improve

2017 was another good year in rankings for UAE universities as they continued an upward trend. In the official QS World University Rankings released this year, UAE University (UAEU) was ranked 391 in the world. American University of Sharjah (AUS) and Khalifa University (ranking based before the merger) also featured in the top 500 universities in the world.

In terms of QS regional university rankings in the Arab world, UAE universities featured prominently among the top institutions. UAEU was again ranked fifth, followed by AUS ranked eighth. Zayed University, Khalifa University, University of Sharjah, and American University of Dubai all made the top 30 universities in the Arab world.

Khalifa University of Science and Technology: Strength in Unity

KUBy Dr. Behjat Al Yousuf for The National

The newly established Khalifa University of Science and Technology has attained the highest ranking for a UAE university in the 2018 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, placing in the 301-350 bracket of the ranking, which covered 1,102 universities across 77 countries. It also achieved the highest university ranking in the UAE in the subject of engineering and technology, placing among the top 250 out of 500 universities surveyed worldwide by THE.

What makes this high ranking more exceptional is the fact that the Khalifa University of Science and Technology was established in February 2017 through the merger of The Petroleum Institute, Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research just seven months ago. This unprecedented high ranking for a UAE university, and that too within just months of its formal creation, is a testament to the UAE’s visionary leadership, which recognised that these three great universities would be able to do even more as one.

Indeed, this achievement could not have been realised so quickly by any one of our constituent universities. By consolidating the component institutes’ research and academic strengths, the Khalifa University of Science and Technology now boasts a broad mix of academic disciplines across undergraduate and post-graduate levels, with 13 bachelor’s, 22 master’s and seven doctorate programmes.

Research at the merged university also now encompasses a wider range of topics of relevance to Abu Dhabi’s targeted knowledge economy transformation, from petroleum engineering and sustainable technologies, to space systems and robotics. This breadth and depth of research and academics is what allowed us to achieve such heights in the THE ranking, which judges research-intensive universities with undergraduate and graduate programmes, across all of their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Our university ranked high in several of the performance indicators judged by THE World University Rankings. In the category of citations, which refers to the number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally, we received a score of 71.4. In Industry Income, which seeks to capture a university’s ability to attract funding in the commercial marketplace, we received a score of 84.5. Our highest score however was in the International Outlook category, where we scored a 97.9. This category looks at the diversity of a university’s student and faculty body, as well as the diversity of the authors on published research papers.

This ranking validates the preceding efforts of Masdar Institute, the Petroleum Institute and the Khalifa University to advance the UAE’s innovation ecosystem and establish Abu Dhabi as a hub for innovation and technology transfer through the cultivation of a research-driven university. Prior to the merger, the latter had made it into the World University Rankings 501-600 bracket in 2017, and was also the youngest university ranked in the list of top 100 universities under 50 years of age. In 2016, Masdar Institute was ranked as the UAE’s top academic institution in the Nature Index rankings and the top engineering university in the UAE by US News and World Report, while in 2015, the Petroleum Institute achieved 20th position in THE’s first-ever ranking of the Middle East and North Africa region’s top 30 universities.

The ranking also strengthens and supports the rationale behind the Abu Dhabi leadership’s ongoing consolidation efforts in the public sector, which have included mergers in banking and investment. Mergers in complementary entities are aimed at producing a single entity that benefits from greater leverage, resources and market position. By bringing these three institutions under one banner, the Abu Dhabi leadership has strengthened the country’s position as a global research and education hub and produced the highest performing science and engineering university the country has ever known.

Going forward, I urge our faculty, students and staff to continue to do the high-quality work that helped Khalifa University of Science and Technology achieve its high THE ranking. By focusing on the goal, transforming the UAE to a competitive and innovative knowledge economy, we will continue to pursue the impactful research, collaboration, and publications that result in rankings. With an even sharper focus on our research and academic output, external recognition will naturally follow.

Dr Behjat Al Yousuf is interim Provost of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, part of the Khalifa University of Science and Technology

New Ratings System for UAE Universities

uae 67366By Sarwat Nasser for Khaleej Times

All universities in the UAE will soon receive a quality rating as part of the country's new higher education strategy.

The rating will determine the standard of the university. It will be similar to how schools in Dubai are rated; however, higher education institutions' rating will be in numbers. Ratings will also be applied to all higher academic, research and applied institutions.

The new initiatives are all part of the UAE's National Higher Education Strategy that was announced in September. In total, there are four pillars that are part of the strategy, including quality (classification initiative), relevance, innovation and efficiency.

The classification initiative is just one of the pillars of the national strategy, as the efficiency initiative will help reduce the number of university dropouts.

The current dropout rate at UAE federal educational institutions is 14 per cent, according to Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills.

"Globally, the dropout rate is 4 to 10 per cent. In the UAE, in federal institutions, it's 14 per cent. In the overall sector, it's less than that. So, we don't have a huge rate, but it is higher than the average," he said.

"What we want to do now is understand why that is happening: is it because the students have to change or because they don't have enough support? All of those can be answered by looking at historical records, which will be able to predict how the situation can be addressed and resolved."

The classification system will help universities determine a certain standard they have to reach as per the ministry's requirements.

"The first and foremost is to look at their quality. As per our requirements, universities will know what will be required to be labelled as 1, 2, or 3. This will help the universities understand that they're not only required to operate under a licence, but also the visibility of the quality that is expected by the ministry," Al Falasi said.

It also aims to ensure the promotion of a student-centric system that produces more employable graduates by broadening the academic and vocational pathways relevant to the existing labour market needs.

This pillar will also ensure university students are being provided enough internship opportunities and the university curriculums are meeting the requirements of the current job market.

Through the innovation pillar, the ministry will ensure government and private funding to the "most promising" areas through competitive mechanisms - helping produce a more knowledge-based economy. One of the main missions of this pillar will be to increase the number of PhD graduates in the country threefold.

Currently, PhDs are only 840 of total graduate students (12,837) in all of UAE.

"The Higher Education strategy will be achieved and implemented over several phases, with an initial ramp up in the short-term. We want to align with our partners and increase collaborations with the private sector. In the long run, we will drive economic development with a focus on strengthening university programmes and align specialisations and research studies with the demands of the job market," Al Falasi said.

Higher education in the UAE

  • The first university in the UAE, United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), was established in 1976 in Al Ain by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Within the first decade, the number of enrolled students increased from 502 students to 15,000.
  • Today, less than 50 years later, the UAE has over 100 higher education institutions, hosting approximately 140,000 students.
  • In 2016, the UAE government brought together the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research as one entity to oversee the entire education sector.
  • The ministry supervises all levels of learning and tracks students across the entirety of their educational journey, from early education all the way to higher education.
  • Top 500 QS, a global ranking system for institutes of higher education, has ranked the UAEU, AUS, and Khalifa University, in recognition of the UAE's global educational standards.

Number of higher education institutions

5 federal institutions:

  1. United Arab Emirates University
  2. Higher Colleges of Technology
  3. Zayed University
  4. National Defense College
  5. Emirates Diplomatic Academy

69 local government and private institutions, including:

  • Khalifa University of Science and Technology
  • Sharjah University
  • Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical and Health Science University

10 branch campuses, including leading global institutions such as:

  1. Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi
  2. New York University Abu Dhabi
  3. INSEAD - Abu Dhabi
  4. New York Institute of Technology - Abu Dhabi
  5. Mohamed V University - Abu Dhabi
  6. Strathclyde Business School - UAE

Four pillars of higher education strategy

  1. Quality (classification)
  2. Relevance
  3. Innovation
  4. Efficiency

CWUR Rankings: UAE University Makes the Top 1,000 Universities

UAEUUAE University (UAEU) has been ranked in the top 3.5 per cent in the 2017 list of the world’s top 1,000 universities by the Centre for World University Rankings (CWUR).

The rankings, revealed recently, also placed the Al Ain-based government university at top position in the UAE. CWUR says it is the publisher of the largest academic ranking of global universities.

“In addition to its high-quality research output, the two key factors that were fundamental to UAEU’s success were alumni employment and research innovation and technology transfer,” it said.

Dr Nadim Mahassen, president of CWUR, said: “For the 2017 edition of the rankings, 27,770 degree-granting institutions of higher education worldwide were evaluated, among which the top 1,000 research-intensive institutions received rankings based on eight objective indicators covering education, alumni employment, and research.”

The world rank for UAEU is 957.

Mahassen added: “It is fantastic to see the UAE represented among the world’s best in education and research. More funding for research will increase the country’s competitiveness on the global stage.

“This year, 61 countries — more than ever before — feature in the top 1,000 list, which represents the top 3.7 per cent of degree-granting institutions of higher education globally. The US remains the dominant force in higher education worldwide, claiming the top three spots, eight of the top 10, and 54 of the top 100. It leads with 225 universities represented in the top 1,000, followed by China (97), Japan (71), the UK (65), and Germany (57).”

Other Arab universities that appear in this year’s rankings are King Saud University, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals from Saudi Arabia, American University of Beirut from Lebanon, and Cairo University, Ain Shams University, Alexandria University, and Mansoura University from Egypt.

The rankings show Harvard is the world’s leading university for the sixth consecutive year. Meanwhile, Stanford and MIT complete the US sweep of the top three places. From the UK Cambridge (fourth) and Oxford (fifth) follow.

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