Emiratis looking for more than a big salary, universities say

The UAE's educational institutions hope the allure of leadership roles and improved benefits packages can draw more quality faculty and administrators to their campuses.

Dubai - March 28, 2010 - Dr. Jason Ng (C) chief scientist and functional leader at Khalifa University talks with two men at the college's booth at Careers UAE in the Trade Center in Dubai, March 28, 2010.  (Photo by Jeff Topping/The National)

DUBAI // Federal universities are having to get creative to attract new Emirati staff, their representatives said yesterday at the Careers UAE fair. The universities hope the allure of leadership roles and improved benefits packages can draw more quality faculty and administrators to their campuses. Moaza al Marri, the manager of the UAE National Development programme at Zayed University, said a high salary was important to Emirati candidates - but was not the only thing they were looking for.

Currently, only 80 of more than 700 staff and faculty at the university are Emirati, and just eight of them teach. She said Zayed University had developed a more extensive system of incentives and benefits to lure nationals. By next year, she hopes to increase the number of Emiratis by 10 per cent by offering a more attractive working environment, more housing benefits and leadership roles, and more scholarships for staff who want to continue their studies.

She conceded that salary matters. The universities' starting salary of Dh17,000 (US$4,600) per month for a fresh graduate cannot compete with other government bodies, she said, which offer Dh25,000 or more. Long working hours also deter many candidates, especially men, Ms al Marri said. "They have many more responsibilities so the salary makes a big difference. They want to get paid more and work less hours."

The university has also become more flexible regarding its criteria that staff must have international experience; they are now allowed to undergo a monitored probation. The positive impact of Emirati professors on students is obvious she said. "Nobody can support the young generation like Emiratis themselves," she said. "With the eight we have already, the students all agreed that it is very much more inspirational for them. They feel they have the same background, speak the same language and they feel that the Emirati teachers really care about their future."

At UAE University, between 30 and 40 per cent of the staff are Emirati. The university currently has 187 Emirati PhDs teaching with a further 62 in the pipeline The Al Ain Univesity's first wave of doctoral students are working as teaching assistants, and the it hopes to recruit some as faculty. "Having a PhD programme we hope will make it easier to develop more local faculty members," said Hennie Ferreira, assistant director of human resources. The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is hoping to fill senior management and teaching vacancies with Emiratis, adding to its staff of 2,000.

Hamsa Saleh, the HCT's Emiratisation manager, said the colleges had a comprehensive programme of Emiratisation that includes coaching and mentoring. The hope is that staff will be encouraged to have long careers with HCT, which has 17 campuses around the country. Careers UAE, which is for nationals only, attracts some of the biggest employers in the country. It is being held through tomorrow at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.