More school pupils in the UAE have their sights set on studying in universities abroad this year, with many saying the Covid-19 pandemic no longer has any effect on their plans.
The top destinations for students were Europe and the US, followed closely by Canada and with Poland now a popular choice.
Although UAE universities are keen to attract more entrants from local schools by expanding their campuses, increasing course variety and adding more student accommodation options, the lure of foreign travel was a strong factor for many.
Speaking to The National at a higher education fair in Dubai this week, pupils said the benefits of studying abroad varied, from new life experiences to gaining access to better academic programmes and exploring different cultures.
Ahmed Ali Chaudhry, a year 13 pupil at English Language Private School Dubai, said he plans to study in Poland.
“At the moment my plan is to apply for university in Poland because several of my friends study there and it is considerably cheaper tuition than the UAE,” he said.
“To study a degree in computer science is, on average, about Dh10,000 to Dh15,000 [$2,720-4,080] a year in the UAE. In Poland it is about Dh5,000.
“I think there are more opportunities to take up work experience in Poland, too.
“For pupils like me, the appeal is always to study abroad as that is where the main campuses for international universities are.”
Unesco's student flow data for 2019 showed the UK as the top destination for UAE students studying abroad.
This year alone, 2,950 applications from prospective UAE students have been received by Ucas, up 17 per cent from 2021.
A Ucas representative said the "UK's world-class universities and colleges" explained why applications from UAE students had increased and were "rising much quicker than for many other countries outside of the EU".
Muhammad Ibrahim, 19, a pupil in Dubai, said he had already chosen the US as his further studies destination.
“I plan to study computer engineering and I’ve already been offered an athletics scholarship at Fresno Pacific University and Fresno State University, both in California,” he said.
“My scholarship is valued at about $30,000 and will cover my first year in school.
“Although the number of universities and academic courses are increasing in the UAE, most students want to study abroad because universities are more established in the likes of the US and UK, and it’s a chance to experience real university living.”
With hopes of becoming a pilot, Muhammad Salman, 18, said he was looking at universities in Poland and Canada.
“My sister lives in Poland and has established a good life for herself, hence why I’m looking at my options there,” he said.
“Canada was an obvious choice because I know so many people that have studied there and the universities are world-renowned.
“I’m looking at studying aeronautical or mechanical engineering.
“I didn’t consider staying in the UAE but I know some people who want to pursue business-focused degrees who are keen to stay here as the course options are good.”
After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, university heads, admissions teams and prospective students from the more than 80 universities in the UAE attended the opening day of the Global Education and Training Exhibition in Dubai on Thursday.
Middlesex University was enticing students with a special Getex grant of Dh5,000 off their tuition if they made a down payment on a course during the three-day event.
At Amity University in Academic City, Dubai, chief executive Dr Vajahat Hussain said that while there has traditionally been an influx of students looking to study abroad, the university had had a higher enrolment for Emirati students in the past year.
Of the 2,000 students on campus, 5 per cent were Emirati but he said the number was growing.
“Almost all are enrolled in our engineering and forensic science courses and we have a higher uptake from females than males,” said Mr Hussain.