A graduate survey found that higher marks do not increase the likelihood of landing a job. Christopher Pike / The National
A graduate survey found that higher marks do not increase the likelihood of landing a job. Christopher Pike / The National

The economics of succeeding at university



Every year, over 100,000 people are enrolled in universities in the UAE, reflecting its growing commitment to education.

Yet enrolling in university is no guarantee of graduation, or of the acquisition of skills that aid success in the post-university phase. Every year, in universities across the entire world, a minority of students struggle, leading some to drop out of higher education without securing a qualification. What causes students to fail?

More importantly, from the perspective of countries such as the UAE that are seeking to elevate the capabilities of their citizen workforces as part of a transition to a knowledge economy, what can be done to tackle the problem of underperforming and failing students?

In a recently circulated paper entitled “What sets college thrivers and divers apart? A contrast in study habits, attitudes, and mental health”, Graham Beattie (University of Pittsburgh, US), Catherine Michaud-Leclerc, Jean-William Laliberte, and Philip Oreopoulos (all from the University of Toronto, Canada) investigate this very issue. Although the data are based on enrolments in the University of Toronto, the findings are still likely to be relevant for many other countries, including the UAE, where satellite institutions such as New York University at Abu Dhabi contribute to an educational environment that closely matches that found in the North America.

To illustrate the problem, the authors begin by citing figures from the University of Toronto. The average high school grade for those accepted into the university is 86 per cent, with a standard deviation of only 3 per cent, indicating very little variation around the average. However, by the end of the first semester - a very early stage in the students’ education - a great diversion appears in the grades, with around a third of the students scoring 60 per cent or less, and a standard deviation multiple times the magnitude of the corresponding figure for high school grades.

This marks the beginning of a trend that results in one quarter of students in Canada failing to complete their degrees within five years. The figures in the US are even more startling, where the post-secondary completion rate is less than 60 per cent.

The authors dig deeper into what factors are associated with a student’s performance. Their starkest finding is the presence of a strong statistical relationship between poor performance and poor time management, lack of study hours, and the tendency to cram for exams. The authors also noted that while poor performers were aware of their problems, they did not demonstrate knowledge of a way of effectively tackling them.

The survey responses of high performers illustrated this divide, as their successful utilisation of the available resources was a recurring theme. In particular, top students were much more likely to use the free resources made available on campus and, more importantly, they much more frequently took the opportunity to meet with instructors and the complimentary tutors provided by the university’s administration. In contrast, the low performers were much more likely to use private tutors - a potentially low-productivity investment of their resources in light of the free tutoring and instructor office hours that were available.

For the post-Second World War era, in all countries including the UAE, college degrees have been strongly associated with higher labour market earnings, and economists agree that a well-structured higher-education system is a critical component of a modern, vibrant economy. Moreover, the importance of the sort of skills that universities can potentially provide has grown as technology has improved, especially those relating to analytical and critical thinking, as well as creativity, as these are the abilities that robots and automated systems are yet to reproduce at a high level.

Therefore, Emirati authorities can potentially benefit from studying the results of the University of Toronto survey, as they seek to ensure that those enrolled in college realise their maximum potential. What are the key lessons to be learned?

First, the research paper points to a claim advanced by labor market experts for some time, which is that soft skills - such as diligence and an ability to delay gratification - matter. Employers seek graduates with high grades not just because “A”s indicate intellectual aptitude, but also because they signal a prospective employee’s ability to organise their time, conform to course instructions, and correctly anticipate the amount of effort necessary for success - key ingredients for a productive worker.

Second, combining the results of this paper with that of other pieces of labour market research, students can improve their soft skills. While the mutability of hard skills such as IQ and natural athleticism past adolescence remains an area of significant controversy, scientists are much more optimistic about our ability to improve an individual’s soft skills, including time management and commitment. The University of Toronto survey suggests that such investments are likely to yield significant returns in higher education, and therefore potentially in the labour market, too.

Canada is not the UAE, however, suggesting that a key takeaway for UAE policymakers should be the value of replicating the study conducted by Beattie and his colleagues, but in the context of the UAE higher education system.

We welcome economics questions from our readers via email (omar@omar.ec) or tweet (@omareconomics).

Scoreline:

Barcelona 2

Suarez 85', Messi 86'

Atletico Madrid 0

Red card: Diego Costa 28' (Atletico)

How to get exposure to gold

Although you can buy gold easily on the Dubai markets, the problem with buying physical bars, coins or jewellery is that you then have storage, security and insurance issues.

A far easier option is to invest in a low-cost exchange traded fund (ETF) that invests in the precious metal instead, for example, ETFS Physical Gold (PHAU) and iShares Physical Gold (SGLN) both track physical gold. The VanEck Vectors Gold Miners ETF invests directly in mining companies.

Alternatively, BlackRock Gold & General seeks to achieve long-term capital growth primarily through an actively managed portfolio of gold mining, commodity and precious-metal related shares. Its largest portfolio holdings include gold miners Newcrest Mining, Barrick Gold Corp, Agnico Eagle Mines and the NewMont Goldcorp.

Brave investors could take on the added risk of buying individual gold mining stocks, many of which have performed wonderfully well lately.

London-listed Centamin is up more than 70 per cent in just three months, although in a sign of its volatility, it is down 5 per cent on two years ago. Trans-Siberian Gold, listed on London's alternative investment market (AIM) for small stocks, has seen its share price almost quadruple from 34p to 124p over the same period, but do not assume this kind of runaway growth can continue for long

However, buying individual equities like these is highly risky, as their share prices can crash just as quickly, which isn't what what you want from a supposedly safe haven.

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Results

5pm: Wathba Stallions Cup Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (Dirt) 1,000m, Winner: Hazeem Al Raed, Antonio Fresu (jockey), Ahmed Al Shemaili (trainer)

5.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 85,000 (D) 1,000m, Winner: Ghazwan Al Khalediah, Hugo Lebouc, Helal Al Alawi

6pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,400m, Winner: Dinar Al Khalediah, Patrick Cosgrave, Helal Al Alawi.

6.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Faith And Fortune, Sandro Paiva, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

7pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Only Smoke, Bernardo Pinheiro, Abdallah Al Hammadi.

7.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: AF Ramz, Saif Al Balushi, Khalifa Al Neyadi.

8pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 2,000m, Winner: AF Mass, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel.

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

3 Body Problem

Creators: David Benioff, D B Weiss, Alexander Woo

Starring: Benedict Wong, Jess Hong, Jovan Adepo, Eiza Gonzalez, John Bradley, Alex Sharp

Rating: 3/5

If you go

The flights Etihad (www.etihad.com) and Spice Jet (www.spicejet.com) fly direct from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Pune respectively from Dh1,000 return including taxes. Pune airport is 90 minutes away by road. 

The hotels A stay at Atmantan Wellness Resort (www.atmantan.com) costs from Rs24,000 (Dh1,235) per night, including taxes, consultations, meals and a treatment package.
 

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Petrarch: Everywhere a Wanderer
Christopher Celenza,
Reaktion Books

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

The Little Mermaid

Director: Rob Marshall
Stars: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem
Rating: 2/5

Naga

Director: Meshal Al Jaser

Starring: Adwa Bader, Yazeed Almajyul, Khalid Bin Shaddad

Rating: 4/5

THE SPECS

Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo

Power: 275hp at 6,600rpm

Torque: 353Nm from 1,450-4,700rpm

Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch auto

Top speed: 250kph

Fuel consumption: 6.8L/100km

On sale: Now

Price: Dh146,999

HWJN

Director: Yasir Alyasiri

Starring: Baraa Alem, Nour Alkhadra, Alanoud Saud

Rating: 3/5

The Iron Claw

Director: Sean Durkin 

Starring: Zac Efron, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Maura Tierney, Holt McCallany, Lily James

Rating: 4/5

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

How to wear a kandura

Dos

  • Wear the right fabric for the right season and occasion 
  • Always ask for the dress code if you don’t know
  • Wear a white kandura, white ghutra / shemagh (headwear) and black shoes for work 
  • Wear 100 per cent cotton under the kandura as most fabrics are polyester

Don’ts 

  • Wear hamdania for work, always wear a ghutra and agal 
  • Buy a kandura only based on how it feels; ask questions about the fabric and understand what you are buying
2018 ICC World Twenty20 Asian Western Sub Regional Qualifier

Event info: The tournament in Kuwait this month is the first phase of the qualifying process for sides from Asia for the 2020 World T20 in Australia. The UAE must finish within the top three teams out of the six at the competition to advance to the Asia regional finals. Success at regional finals would mean progression to the World T20 Qualifier.

UAE’s fixtures: Fri Apr 20, UAE v Qatar; Sat Apr 21, UAE v Saudi Arabia; Mon Apr 23, UAE v Bahrain; Tue Apr 24, UAE v Maldives; Thu Apr 26, UAE v Kuwait

World T20 2020 Qualifying process:

  • Sixteen teams will play at the World T20 in two years’ time.
  • Australia have already qualified as hosts
  • Nine places are available to the top nine ranked sides in the ICC’s T20i standings, not including Australia, on Dec 31, 2018.
  • The final six teams will be decided by a 14-team World T20 Qualifier.

World T20 standings: 1 Pakistan; 2 Australia; 3 India; 4 New Zealand; 5 England; 6 South Africa; 7 West Indies; 8 Sri Lanka; 9 Afghanistan; 10 Bangladesh; 11 Scotland; 12 Zimbabwe; 13 UAE; 14 Netherlands; 15 Hong Kong; 16 Papua New Guinea; 17 Oman; 18 Ireland

Director: Nag Ashwin

Starring: Prabhas, Saswata Chatterjee, Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Shobhana

Rating: ★★★★

Best Academy: Ajax and Benfica

Best Agent: Jorge Mendes

Best Club : Liverpool   

 Best Coach: Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool)  

 Best Goalkeeper: Alisson Becker

 Best Men’s Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

 Best Partnership of the Year Award by SportBusiness: Manchester City and SAP

 Best Referee: Stephanie Frappart

Best Revelation Player: Joao Felix (Atletico Madrid and Portugal)

Best Sporting Director: Andrea Berta (Atletico Madrid)

Best Women's Player:  Lucy Bronze

Best Young Arab Player: Achraf Hakimi

 Kooora – Best Arab Club: Al Hilal (Saudi Arabia)

 Kooora – Best Arab Player: Abderrazak Hamdallah (Al-Nassr FC, Saudi Arabia)

 Player Career Award: Miralem Pjanic and Ryan Giggs

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Winners

Best Men's Player of the Year: Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Maradona Award for Best Goal Scorer of the Year: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

TikTok Fans’ Player of the Year: Robert Lewandowski

Top Goal Scorer of All Time: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

Best Women's Player of the Year: Alexia Putellas (Barcelona)

Best Men's Club of the Year: Chelsea

Best Women's Club of the Year: Barcelona

Best Defender of the Year: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus/Italy)

Best Goalkeeper of the Year: Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG/Italy)

Best Coach of the Year: Roberto Mancini (Italy)

Best National Team of the Year: Italy

Best Agent of the Year: Federico Pastorello

Best Sporting Director of the Year: Txiki Begiristain (Manchester City)

Player Career Award: Ronaldinho

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

 

The Crown season 5

Stars: Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Jonny Lee Miller, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki, Salim Daw and Khalid Abdalla

Written by: Peter Morgan

Rating: 4/5 stars

The bio

Favourite food: Japanese

Favourite car: Lamborghini

Favourite hobby: Football

Favourite quote: If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough

Favourite country: UAE

MATCH INFO

Uefa Champions League quarter-final (first-leg score):

Juventus (1) v Ajax (1), Tuesday, 11pm UAE

Match will be shown on BeIN Sports

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder

Transmission: Constant Variable (CVT)

Power: 141bhp 

Torque: 250Nm 

Price: Dh64,500

On sale: Now

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

ETFs explained

Exhchange traded funds are bought and sold like shares, but operate as index-tracking funds, passively following their chosen indices, such as the S&P 500, FTSE 100 and the FTSE All World, plus a vast range of smaller exchanges and commodities, such as gold, silver, copper sugar, coffee and oil.

ETFs have zero upfront fees and annual charges as low as 0.07 per cent a year, which means you get to keep more of your returns, as actively managed funds can charge as much as 1.5 per cent a year.

There are thousands to choose from, with the five biggest providers BlackRock’s iShares range, Vanguard, State Street Global Advisors SPDR ETFs, Deutsche Bank AWM X-trackers and Invesco PowerShares.

THE BIO

Favourite book: ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren

Favourite travel destination: Switzerland

Hobbies: Travelling and following motivational speeches and speakers

Favourite place in UAE: Dubai Museum

BLACKBERRY

Director: Matt Johnson

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson

Rating: 4/5


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