The new degree offers two tracks: one for teachers and another for those who want to join the industry. Razan Alzayani / The National
The new degree offers two tracks: one for teachers and another for those who want to join the industry. Razan Alzayani / The National

UAE University takes a punt on physical education studies

ABU DHABI // A new generation of physical education teachers are set to enrol at UAE University later this year with the reintroduced of degrees in sports studies.

Steven Bossert, UAEU’s outgoing chair of education, has been working for the last three years to reinstate the university’s physical education department. After carrying our research into whether or not there was a demand for physical education teachers and trained fitness professionals in the UAE, Mr Bossert and his team are now confident that the first cohort of around 10-15 men and 15-20 women will be ready to begin their studies in September.

The physical education degree will follow two tracks, one for teachers and one for people who want to go into the fitness industry to work as coaches, facility managers and health management professionals.

“There will be common core courses,” said Mr Bossert. “Students will select which speciality they want but we hope there will be sufficient enough [students] who want to be teachers. We’ve had substantial interest.”

Mr Bossert hopes that by offering this subject more men will be attracted to teaching. “National universities need to do everything we can to attract males and making teaching more attractive to males.”

With more and more people becoming interested in healthy living, now is “an opportune time” to introduce physical education studies, said Mr Bossert.

In December, the Federal National Council was told that state universities will offer sport studies as a new major for students in the coming years.

The ministry of education used to offer physical education and sport degrees at UAE University but in 2000, but closed the course due to low enrolment.

In a letter to the FNC, Minister of Higher Education, Hamdan Bin Mubarak, said: “We are now about to reopen this major for a second time, with some changes. The goal of the new programme is to promote health.”

Shaikha Al Qassimi, a CrossFit coach and athlete, said she was delighted the course had been reinstated as it would help a new generation of Emiratis and expatriates learn more about how to keep themselves and others healthy.

“As the young generation, it’s up to us to change how people view sports and healthy living. Things here are changing and people need to change with the times so this is great news to have degrees in sports being made available. This is especially good for women who can’t so easily travel abroad,” said the Emiriti.

“The sport and health and fitness industry needs more women but we need to educate people more about the careers it can take them to and show them it’s just as prestigious as a career in anything else like law or medicine.”

Gillian Brunton, a former physical education teacher turned educator and consultant, said the success of the course depends on how well the subject is taught.

“How good this is depends on delivery, intake and how seriously it’s being taken. There isn’t even a physical education department in the Ministry of Education so who will monitor it? Currently PE staff in local schools earn Dh7,500 per month though Emiratis might get more,”

She said until schools needed to make physical education more of a priority and make it an important part of the curriculum.

“PE has always been seen as a time to have a break. It was never taken seriously as a subject,” said Ms Al Qassimi.

Currently there are no sports related degrees being taught at any of the UAE’s universities. At the Higher Colleges of Technology, a sports management degree has been postponed indefinitely pending further reviews on how best to deliver it.

“A physical education course was attempted in Qatar a couple of years ago and no one signed up,” said Ms Brunton. “Culturally PE isn’t a profession and so parents are very reluctant for their children to take this as an option.”

How being social media savvy can improve your well being

Next time when procastinating online remember that you can save thousands on paying for a personal trainer and a gym membership simply by watching YouTube videos and keeping up with the latest health tips and trends.

As social media apps are becoming more and more consumed by health experts and nutritionists who are using it to awareness and encourage patients to engage in physical activity.

Elizabeth Watson, a personal trainer from Stay Fit gym in Abu Dhabi suggests that “individuals can use social media as a means of keeping fit, there are a lot of great exercises you can do and train from experts at home just by watching videos on YouTube”.

Norlyn Torrena, a clinical nutritionist from Burjeel Hospital advises her clients to be more technologically active “most of my clients are so engaged with their phones that I advise them to download applications that offer health related services”.

Torrena said that “most people believe that dieting and keeping fit is boring”.

However, by using social media apps keeping fit means that people are “modern and are kept up to date with the latest heath tips and trends”.

“It can be a guide to a healthy lifestyle and exercise if used in the correct way, so I really encourage my clients to download health applications” said Mrs Torrena.

People can also connect with each other and exchange “tips and notes, it’s extremely healthy and fun”.


Sunday, January 20
3pm: Jordan v Vietnam at Al Maktoum Stadium, Dubai
6pm: Thailand v China at Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
9pm: Iran v Oman at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Monday, January 21
3pm: Japan v Saudi Arabia at Sharjah Stadium
6pm: Australia v Uzbekistan at Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain
9pm: UAE v Kyrgyzstan at Zayed Sports City Stadium, Abu Dhabi

Tuesday, January 22
5pm: South Korea v Bahrain at Rashid Stadium, Dubai
8pm: Qatar v Iraq at Al Nahyan Stadium, Abu Dhabi

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