Coronavirus: UAE universities gear up for December exams with precautions

Ministry of Education says universities should hold final exams on campus - and students must wear gloves while writing or typing

Universities across the country are gearing up for finals next month in what will be the first on-campus exams in almost a year.

The Ministry of Education said universities have to hold exams on campus, although institutions can apply for exceptions.

Students were told in-person assessments were crucial, particularly for those involving lab work.

But the need to wear gloves while writing or typing, along with masks, has frustrated many.

It's impossible that all students have special requests and cannot come to the campus

Students at Al Ain University took to social media to voice their concerns about spending time on campus during a pandemic. Their university has since assured them all precautions will be in place, but said it was not possible for all exams to be sat remotely.

Al Ain University was the first to announce all final exams would be held on-site in December. Other institutions such as UAE University and University of Sharjah have received exemptions and opted for a mix of in-person and remote online exams.

“My mother, 71, and children are at home,” said Saleh Al Manhali, an Emirati second-year law student at Al Ain University.

"I do not feel comfortable going to the campus to take exams because I am worried about them.

“When there were a few hundred cases every day, universities were shut and classes moved online.

“Now, there are more than 1,000 cases daily, and we are being asked to come to the university.”

Abdallah Faissal, Palestinian fourth-year-student at Al Ain University. Courtesy: Abdallah Faissal

Mr Al Manhali said some students from Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah would have to take several Covid-19 tests during exams.

Universities switched to online lessons in March and exams were held online throughout the year.

Roujin Arabo, 18, a Syrian second-year pharmacy student at Al Ain University, said she was worried because her father, 63, has diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

“If I get the virus and pass it on to him, it would be a disaster,” she said.

“How come other universities are holding exams online but we are having these on campus?"

Molham Sakkal, Syrian fourth-year student at Al Ain University. Courtesy: Molham Sakkal

UAE University said it will hold theory exams online, while students will have to come to the campus for laboratory-based tests.

Dr Amer Qasem, vice president at Al Ain University’s Abu Dhabi campus, said staff were taking precautions before holding exams in classrooms.

Students would have to wear masks and gloves while writing tests.

They must undergo a PCR nasal swab test a day or two before the exam and present a negative test to enter the campus.

“We are receiving messages from students who want to sit for the final exams online, and some have health concerns," Dr Qasem said.

“It’s impossible that all students can have special requests and cannot come to the campus.

“If they have individual requests, it should be discussed with the college.”

If a student cannot attend in-person exams because of an emergency or health reasons, he or she will be allowed to take the tests at a later date.

“It is too early to say we will be making exceptions because we will need to study these cases,” Dr Qasem said.

Abdallah Faissal, a Palestinian fourth-year-student at Al Ain University, said it would be a challenge to take the test with face masks and gloves but would be better than online tests because there were distractions at home.