School admissions reflect new reality

Having fewer places at one federal university is not a bad thing: standards must be maintained. It's also good, however, that other forms of higher schooling are available.

Properly understood it is good news, not bad, that fewer students will be attending the UAE's three federal universities this fall.

The 6 per cent reduction in available places, to 11,532, will obviously be a frustration for those who had hoped to get in but were turned away. A closer look at the numbers, however, and at the explanation offered for the shrinkage, reveals that there is in fact clear thinking behind the change.

At UAE University and Zayed University, the number of places available has increased. But the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is cutting admissions by a startling 31 per cent, to 5,533.

HCT has raised its entry requirements, a move no doubt unpopular in some quarters but sound nonetheless. When fully 90 per cent of students require remedial classes before tackling HCT's course of study, and 20 per cent fail the make-up course or drop out, clearly there is something wasteful in the system.

The new tougher policy is intended to squeeze out that waste of money and of students and educators' time.

Universities that hold globally recognised accreditation need to maintain global-level standards; by definition not everyone can work at that level.

To earn a university degree in a challenging technical discipline demands the right education foundation, innate academic capability and plenty of determination. It just makes sense to limit HCT access to people with all those attributes.

However, it also makes sense that the UAE, like many countries, aims to give every person access to the level of education that is right for him or her.

One size does not fit all in schooling. Community college courses, technical and trades training, commercial classes of various types - all of these and more are needed to produce the workforce the country needs for the "knowledge economy" of the future.

For many young people everywhere, it is notoriously difficult to choose the educational path that will lead to the right career. Guidance counselling and a range of educational opportunities are the two tools best designed to give students finishing secondary school the optimum opportunity to find their proper places in the economy and society.

Published: August 5, 2011 04:00 AM