Thousands of UAE students apply for university scholarships from Abu Ghurair Foundation

Al Ghurair Foundation for Education aims to fund 15,000 students in Stem subjects.

Islam Atia, 16, applied for an Al Ghurair Foundation scholarship to  be able to study mechanical engineering. Pawan Singh / The National
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DUBAI // Islam Atia shares a dream with thousands of other students. The 16-year-old Egyptian is one of more than 14,000 youngsters from across the Middle East who have applied for scholarships from the UAE-based Al Ghurair Foundation for Education.

The Foundation, the largest of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world, was founded in 2015 with the aim of investing US$1.1Billion (Dh4.2 billion) in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education for talented and underprivileged students over 10 years. A total of 15,000 youngsters are set to benefit from the scholarship scheme.

Islam, a high school student who has lived his whole life in Ras Al Khaimah, hopes to attend one of the region’s high ranking universities. With fees being so high - tuition at the American University of Sharjah can cost tens of thousands of dirhams a year - the scholarship is his best shot at studying his dream subject of mechanical engineering

“I sent my application to the Foundation hoping to find a sponsor to cover my studies in a high ranking university such as American University in Cairo or AUS,” he said.

“Studying mechanical engineering is my dream, but going to a high ranking university is very expensive. I applied to both develop myself and to help my country and the UAE in the future with my knowledge.”

The Al Ghurair STEM Scholars Programme attracted around 14,500 applications in just five weeks after online applications opened in April.

Potential scholars must give evidence of their academic performance and financial status as well as their leadership skills and commitment through submitted essays.

Those selected will be provided with tuition, living allowance, health insurance, shared on-campus housing, a books allowance and travel expenses.

“Our programmes were designed with high-achieving, underserved Arab youth in mind and we are thrilled to have received such an astounding number of applications to our first year of offering scholarships starting in September,” said Maysa Jalbout, chief executive of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation.

“The Foundation is committed to equipping Arab youth with the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil their promise as the future leaders of the region and this is the first step of their journey.”

The first cohort of Al Ghurair STEM Scholars will be announced early next month.

Applicants for undergraduate and graduate scholarships are also able to apply to one of the Foundation’s four partner universities; American University in Cairo (AUC), American University of Sharjah (AUS), American University of Beirut (AUB), and Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Professor Tod Laursen, president of Khalifa University, said he hoped that in time the university will take undergraduate as well as graduate students.

“We’re hoping to do undergraduate scholarships at a later date, but for where we are right now graduate students was a natural place to start.

“We’d hope for one to two dozen initially but we’ll see.”

Professor Kevin Mitchell, Interim Provost of American University of Sharjah, lauded the project for filling a much needed demand from less privileged but talented minds around the region.

“The number of organisations providing scholarships for deserving students in the region is currently limited, but hopefully others will follow the lead of the Foundation and expand opportunities for students interested in STEM fields and in a range of other disciplines.”

Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, said having the fund open to students outside of the UAE was important. “We wanted to make sure that every deserving Arab youth had the chance to apply and the high number of applicants proves that there is tremendous demand.”