Emirati students warned: take care choosing a university

Employers rank local private universities lowest when hiring new graduates, study suggests.

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ABU DHABI // Students who turn to local private universities because of pressure on places at federal institutions may struggle to find a good job, a new study suggests.

Employers unanimously prefer graduates who have studied abroad, followed by those from branches of overseas universities, then the federal universities and, in last place, local private universities.

"Private universities don't have a good reputation," said Dr Ali Bhayani, of the University of Wollongong Dubai, who surveyed 34 employers in various sectors for the study.

"Branch campuses did better. Employers felt they had better quality."

Hamza Zaouli, founder of Iris Executives and GovJobs.ae, which focuses on Emiratisation, said an overseas education gave Emiratis "a clearly pronounced difference in attitude and maturity".

About a quarter of the 120,000 Emirati students are at federal universities, and the number has been rising by about 20 per cent a year.

Straining under the pressure, federal universities have increased entry requirements.

More young people, having failed to meet those requirements and rejected a vocational alternative, are enrolling at private universities.

In Dubai, nearly 60 per cent of Emirati students attend private universities.

Some "useless" institutions ejected from Dubai because they failed to meet standards set by the regulator, the KHDA, had set up in unregulated free zones, Dr Bhayani said.

"There can't be fly-by-night universities operating in free zones where the students have worthless degrees," he said. "Sooner or later there needs to be uniform standards."