The study also found that two-thirds of graduates end up on career paths that are unrelated to what they studied
Dubai: If given another chance, university students would not study the same subject again, a study by a UAE-based HR consultancy, the Talent Enterprise, has found.
The study, which was dedicated to the evaluation of human capital, found that almost half of all students would not go back to study the same courses.
It also found that two-thirds of graduates end up on career paths that are unrelated to what they studied at university.
“I totally regret studying civil engineering and I am not surprised by these findings because most of my friends regret it too,” said Palestinian Hazem Mohammad who graduated from the American University of Sharjah.
Mohammad said he regrets studying engineering because there are no job prospects in the engineering market in comparison with other markets.
“We engineering students studied 10 times harder in university than those who majored in mass communication or business management but once we graduated many of us barely found any jobs, and if we did they paid poorly.”
Mohammad said most of the job offers he got paid Dh4,000 to Dh5,000 while those who studied mass communication, for example, were getting jobs offers that paid Dh10,000.
Mohammad believes there should be counsellors at schools and university to advise students on the markets needs and direct their interests and skills to the right major.
Jordanian Lamia Usef, on the other hand, who also studied civil engineering, said she is working as an accounts executive at an advertising company because she could not find a job in her field.
“Some of my friends, who graduated with me, ended up finding jobs in their majors, while others did not. I think luck plays a big role when searching for a job.”
Lamia said she has many women friends who studied civil engineering but purposely chose not to work in the field because it is a demanding job for women, especially if they plan on getting married.
According to David Jones, Managing Director at The Talent Enterprise and a Labour Market Economist, there is massive opportunity in the UAE.
“We believe that each and every individual has something unique to offer in terms of their own individual strengths and aspirations. It’s really about discovering these unique attributes, and then helping the right people find the right jobs.”
Jones said, based on this realisation, The Talent Enterprise has developed the ‘Thriving Index’, the region’s first and only psychometric assessment tools to help students, job-seekers and employees understand more about their strengths and personal motivation. He said the Thriving Index will be available at the Al Ain Education and Career Fair next week.
The study found that among UAE youth, the weakest points include preparedness, optimisim, responsibility, confidence and flexibility. The strengths include ambition and creativity.
Juggling an academic and a social life while challenging is the least of students’ concerns because there are many more issues awaiting new graduates.
Facing a litany of unknowns following university is a stressful time for many students.
Saif Al Deen Faisal, 21, who studies business at the University of Wollongong in Dubai, said he fears he won’t be competent to join the workforce because his university focuses more on theoretical education rather than practical education.
“I am not being taught anything practical. I find that a lot of majors are missing key subjects. For example, as a senior business major I did not learn anything about contract writing or handling certain people and issues at work,” said Faisal.
The senior student also finds maintaining a healthy lifestyle when surrounded with a lot of unhealthy options on campus another big challenge.
“There are hardly any healthy food options and if there are any they are super expensive. This might not be a problem in the first year of university since you are still young but it starts getting to you as you get older,” he said.
When it comes to the quality of education in universities, Mariam Yousuf, 20, a junior student who studies graphic design in the American University in Dubai, shared some of her concerns.
“We have great professors but, in some cases, some professors are asked to teach subjects that they are not specialised in. When that happens I feel that I am wasting my money and time and I am not gaining the knowledge in the right way.”
Mariam also said students at her university care too much about their appearance, which can be stressful to live up to as well.
If parents’ expectations are not bad enough, civil engineer student Ghalya Jameel Al Deen, 20, who also studies at the American University in Dubai, said professors’ high expectations are stressful as well.
“What is stressful is that professors give a lot of workload, expecting that their course is only a course we students are taking. This makes it harder to juggle my social and academic life; even making time for my parents is challenging.”
Ghalya, who is set to graduate in two weeks, said she has some fears about entering the workplace despite having done a lot of practical work in university.
“I am just not sure of the work field’s needs. I believe that we should have taken more internship. Even if it they are not given in a form of a course, in the USA, students are encouraged to take internships every summer,” she said.
Another senior student, Mohammad Bassem, 24, who studies computer systems at Heriot Watt Dubai, said the cost of his graduation ceremony is burdening him.
“To attend my graduation I have to pay a Dh600 entrance fee. If I choose to not attend the graduation I still have to pay Dh300. If I want to get my parents and siblings I have to pay Dh200 for each and to buy the gown and cap I have to pay Dh300. If I choose to rent it I will get Dh100 back.”
The senior, who is graduating soon, said the cost of attending his graduation ceremony is too high.
Our campus teaching center recently invited a brave group of student tutors to share their views on effective teaching with our faculty. The four tutors reported what they had heard from students about course designs and teaching practices that seemed to help, and ones that seemed to interfere with learning. Three recurrent themes in the tutors’ remarks caught my attention.
First, they suggested that students needed more help in seeing the large organizational sweep of a course. Undergraduates who came to the tutoring center often had no idea how the first week of the semester in a class connected to the last, or even how different units related to one another. For many students, courses appear less as logical progressions than as, to quote the American writer Elbert Hubbard, "one damn thing after another." So course designs that might seem so clear and elegant to us as faculty members, apparently, do not always appear so lucid to our students.
Second, the tutors said faculty members needed to be much more transparent in their teaching. Students may not see the reasoning behind why Monday is a lecture and Wednesday a discussion, and how our expectations for those very distinct pedagogical models might differ.
Some of the tutors even reported being confused about what they should take away from class discussions, or how they fit into the larger picture of a course. Class discussions that sparkle with life and energy, and that we view as triumphs of great teaching, might just seem pointless and confusing to students.
Finally, the tutors suggested that we could do a better job of sharing our excitement about our disciplines. "We know you have passion for the course material," one of the panelists said, "but students don’t always see that in classes. I know that when professors get really excited about what they are teaching, it makes me more curious and interested to find out about it." Without that contagious energy from the professor, they noted, it was especially hard to become motivated in required or introductory courses.
I came away from the gathering with a lot of ideas, but the most immediate conclusion I drew was: It’s time to rethink my syllabus. A more thoughtful approach to this essential classroom document, and to my use of it throughout the semester, could help alleviate the three major concerns articulated by those tutors.
The "learning syllabus." In this two-part series on the creation and use of what I will call a "learning syllabus" in college and university courses, I want to argue for three essential functions that a syllabus should play in any course. Those three functions do not exhaust the list of what a syllabus should contain or accomplish, but thinking about the implications of these three things will go a long way toward populating your syllabus with the standard material it should have and, at the same time, add elements that will support student learning and that we can return to over and over again throughout the semester.
Too often I hear of the syllabus spoken of as a contract, and I understand that it has a contractual function. But surely we can do better than handing out a contract to our students on the first day of class. Ultimately the syllabus should serve the same purpose as every other aspect of the course: It should help students learn. Consider the following three principles as driving a learning approach to this essential course document.
Make promises. The "promising syllabus" is a concept based on the research of Ken Bain. He’s argued for years that the syllabus should be a place to demonstrate your energy and excitement for the course content. Because this document often represents the first official meeting between your students and your course material, it can be an ideal moment to help them recognize the value of the content and stimulate their interest in learning it.
Bain developed the notion of a promising syllabus by looking at the syllabi of dozens of highly effective and award-winning faculty members. What he saw there, he explains in his 2004 book What the Best College Teachers Do, were syllabi in which faculty members would "lay out the promises or opportunities that the course offered to students. What kind of questions would it help students answer? What kind of intellectual, physical, emotional, or social abilities would it help them develop?" The syllabus "represented an invitation to a feast, giving students a strong sense of control over whether they accepted."
Does your syllabus offer students an invitation to an intellectual feast? Are you promising students that—if they put in the required work—your course will help them gain deep new insights into life? Or valuable skills that will benefit them throughout their careers? Or knowledge that will enable them to succeed in their chosen professions?
Or, instead, does your syllabus offer some version of the statement "In this course we will cover … , " which is the syllabus equivalent of presenting your lectures in a dull monotone, in a darkened room, from behind a podium?
You no doubt believe in the value of your discipline and your course. You believe it has something incredibly valuable to offer to your students. The challenge of the learning syllabus is to convey that value to students. You want to convince them, in that initial meeting, that learning in your course, if they put in the effort, could change their lives for the better. A learning syllabus exudes the enthusiasm that will stimulate the curiosity of students.
Orient your students. Your syllabus, through its course description or schedule, should help students recognize the course’s larger organizational framework and continue to see it throughout the semester. Students should be able to pull out their syllabus in any class period and use it to help identify where the course has been, where it stands now, and where it is headed.
That can happen in different ways. Some faculty members like to plot out the course on the syllabus in great detail, including the topics and readings covered in each class session, the due dates for homework and other assignments, and the dates of all quizzes and examinations. Predicting all of that before a course even begins can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but it does help students envision the whole course from the outset of the semester. And as the tutors explained, that also helps students plan their schedules effectively. Dropping an unexpected exam or assignment date on students midsemester might mean that those who have carefully planned out their studying time around work and extracurriculars now have to rearrange everything in their lives to accommodate your late decision.
Still, in some cases it may be best to leave room for flexibility on a syllabus. Where I live, we have had three vast snowstorms in the past three weeks, each of which entailed a day of class cancellations. Faculty members who had mapped out their schedules in intricate detail are now fumbling a bit. Likewise, faculty members should be flexible enough in their planning to accommodate students’ problems or events within or outside of the class.
But aside from the question of how much you want to pin down the dates, the key to this principle is laying out the content of the course in ways that enable students to see the learning arc. Undoubtedly the topics of your course build on one another throughout the semester. Does the course also divide up into logical units? Do certain topics recur from one week to the next? Can you find ways to indicate those kinds of progressions, divisions, or cycles on your syllabus?
New learners in a subject area typically need help seeing frameworks and big pictures. A learning syllabus can help them acquire that vision from the first day of the semester.
Be transparent. So much of what we heard from the tutors on the panel, and so much of what I hear from my student advisees, is puzzlement: Why are we doing this?
Our tutors reported their bafflement, for example, about how to approach and learn from class discussions. Were they supposed to take notes on what their classmates said? Were they responsible for things their classmates said on exams? How about seemingly casual comments made by the professor during the discussion? Should they write those down?
Students may have such questions about almost everything we do in class: Why do we take quizzes? What’s the purpose of these presentations? Why should I have to take a cumulative final exam? Why do you grade participation?
The rationale for all of those decisions might be clear enough in your mind, but how often do you answer those questions for your students? If they never hear answers, they might see your course practices and assessments as hoops to jump through or boxes to tick instead of opportunities to learn and improve.
So consider the syllabus as a place to set down in writing the rationale for what you do in the course. The learning syllabus should be a transparent syllabus, a place where your students can find answers to the questions that might arise when they are struggling with a difficult assignment or wondering why they should trudge across a cold snowy campus for a discussion session on a Friday morning.
Creating such a learning syllabus, though, won’t get you very far if students don’t pay close attention to it. So the syllabus represents the place to put—in concrete terms—the incredible value of your course, the organization of its parts, and the logic behind it. But a true learning syllabus does not simply reside in the paper or electronic folders of your students; it sparks and maintains a continuing conversation about your course, and about the learning of your students.
Next month, in the final part of this series, we’ll consider how the learning syllabus should form a regular part of your course, as a living document that can inspire and guide students throughout the semester.
In a survey of more than 1,000 students across different universities in the UAE, 78 per cent of respondents admitted to cheating by using technology.
Dubai — Plagiarism is a “serious issue” among students taking educational courses in the UAE, academics at top universities in the country have said.
Dr Zeenath Khan, a lecturer at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), who has researched the subject of ‘e-cheating’ in the UAE in depth, explained the reasons pushing academic dishonesty.
In a survey of more than 1,000 students across different universities in the UAE, 78 per cent of respondents admitted to cheating by using technology.
“Cheating is a serious problem in the UAE ... Students cheat or plagiarise for a number of reasons. They sometimes have a laid-back attitude (when) ... they work on an assignment or revise for an exam at the last minute.
Sometimes teachers look the other way or are naive to the varying degrees of cheating and the methods used. There is also a huge ... pressure on students to excel, which contributes to levels of plagiarism too,” she told Khaleej Times.
Martin Prince, registrar at the British University in Dubai (BUiD), said the issue is not restricted to undergraduate students. “Even at post graduate level, there isn’t a clear understanding of plagiarism in students. We do expect Master’s students to have a bit more knowledge of academic dishonesty.” He said the university recorded seven formal cases of deliberate plagiarism last year and almost 30 cases of negligent plagiarism.
“Any increase in cases of academic dishonesty is proportionate to the increase in number of students. We support new students who aren’t familiar with the rules of academic writing before their work is submitted for assessment,” he said.
He highlighted the university’s emphasis on making students aware of academic writing guidelines.
“We have policies and procedures for our students where new students get support from academic staff. Even if it is one piece of work in their module where deliberate plagiarism is detected, they would have to retake the module. Depending on the student’s explanation, the student can even be suspended from the programme for a period of time,” explained Prince.
The American University of Sharjah (AUS) has lowered the number of plagiarism cases by introducing sanctions against students who violate the honour code.
Kevin Mitchell, AUS interim provost, said: “Academic dishonesty is an issue at all academic institutions, although ... challenges may differ. For some students at (the) AUS, there can be a significant transition between high school and university and this often means that students may have difficulty in keeping up with the volume and level of work and may be tempted to take shortcuts.”
The university employs a variety of methods for detecting academic dishonesty, including anti-plagiarism software and other detection tools. The university faculty also reviews the work of students to assess their submissions.
“We track academic integrity violations at the university and have actually seen the number of cases decreasing, but this could be due to a number of factors, one of which may be that (the) AUS has both academic and non-academic sanctions for academic integrity violations.
The combination of academic and non-academic sanctions seems to have increased awareness and had an impact on the number of cases. An academic integrity violation can impact not only a student’s academic performance, but also (his/her) participation in extracurricular activities.”
Expert from PA Consulting Group warns culture of valuing lifelong learning in education needs to be created in Middle East Dubai, UAE, 10 March 2015: The standard of education in the Middle East needs to improve drastically against international benchmarks in order to create more capable, qualified and developed students who can move on to tertiary learning.
While education is the single most important determinant of today's economic, social and cultural prosperity, the biggest challenge for the region's education sector is that the system has traditionally under performed at all levels compared to other markets, said Paul Woodgates, an education expert at PA Consulting Group.
"There has been a passive acceptance of this underperformance in recent years, however, it is no longer being tolerated," said Woodgates. "Performance and outcomes need to be raised at school level, where in many cases the quality of teaching needs to be improved, to create a cohort of students who are ready for undergraduate study and will exceed at that level and beyond."
Working with management to support decision-making around the deployment of educational resources for teaching, research, estate and facilities, and intellectual property, Paul Woodgates has said that the biggest problem Middle East educational management face today is creating behavioural change.
"The focus of governments is often on new buildings, changed curricula and the introduction of technology - all very important. Research shows, however, that these factors are secondary compared to improving the quality of teaching in terms of making an impact," added Woodgates.
As technology is constantly advancing, providers in the Middle East have been urged to understand and make the most of new innovations to engage students and enhance the learning experience. The education sector must pay more attention to capital efficiency and innovation rather than rely on incumbent models of learning services in order to keep up with the rest of the world.
PA Consulting Group understands the issues and challenges shaping government and public service organisations in the Middle East and is helping countries across the Gulf realise their version for education to support their economic, cultural and social aspirations.
The Group is leading the way on e-education and has worked closely with organisations to develop their visions for technology-enabled learning, and designed, piloted and implemented an 'e-maturity' model within an online tool in Qatar. The dual-language tool, the first of its kind in the region, provides schools in Qatar with an online self-assessment and improvement capability to assess their level of 'e-maturity' and guide them towards improvement in line with the overall e-education strategy.
PA Consulting Group has been operating in the Gulf region for the last 30 years, successfully delivering more than 150 projects in 13 Middle Eastern countries, across sectors including financial services, transport, energy, government, defence and security, healthcare, education and manufacturing.
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