Business

UAE's college campuses are just right for international student community post COVID-19

UAE's college campuses are just right for international student community post COVID-19

With the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus affecting student mobility, universities are paring down their international student offerings and focusing more on the domestic audience.

While online learning currently plays an integral role in tertiary education, it cannot replace the full experience of studying abroad, including immersion in the language, culture and customs of another country – one of the main reasons students opt for foreign universities. Neither can it provide a young graduate with the networking, internship and employment opportunities that go hand in hand with international education.

Following its success in dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE remains one of the world’s safest countries and one of the best places in the world for international students. With many nations just beginning to release stringent movement restrictions, and others still battling the pandemic on all fronts, the UAE has been brimming with life – of course, while observing social distancing and other precautionary measures.

The country’s decisive, comprehensive and innovative response to the greatest health crisis of our time - involving the deployment of sanitising robots and drones, has been praised.

Described by the media as a pragmatic and effective leader in combating the virus, the UAE placed 11th overall and first in the Arab world in the COVID-19 Safety Ranking by Deep Knowledge Group. The country has also earned a commendation from Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO), for its humanitarian initiatives in support of the global efforts to fight the pandemic.

Test and jab

The UAE has been among the leading countries in terms of testing - ranking first in the number of new tests per 1,000 people as of September 2020. In addition, its recovery rates are significantly higher and mortality lower than the global average. Furthermore, the country tops the world rankings for vaccination rates, with Sinopharm vaccine available to frontline workers and government officials from September, and plans to vaccinate the entire population by end-2021.

In addition to successfully flattening the curve, the UAE was also one of the first countries in the world to start economic recovery by mid-2020, and ranks first in the Arab world in the COVID Economic Recovery Index. The nation has done remarkably well in adapting to the new normal, and UAE’s education sector is no exception with academic institutions demonstrating outstanding agility in the transition to online learning, training 25,000 teachers and support personnel in disseminating knowledge remotely.

Campus concentration

The UAE is home to 37 international branch campuses (IBCs) of universities from across the globe – the highest concentration worldwide – 27 of which are located in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC), the world’s largest free zone dedicated to education.

In addition to benefiting from the learning infrastructure, students in the country get to experience a cosmopolitan environment, where they can interact with multiple nationalities – an ideal preparation for professional life. Even with the strict implementation of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, they can enjoy a vibrant social life.

With the UAE on track for a sound economic recovery, job opportunities for fresh graduates are also on the rise. In 2020 Dubai ranked first in the Middle East and North Africa and fourth globally as a magnet for greenfield FDI capital, according to the Financial Times’ fDi Markets. Around 18,325 new jobs were created by the invested FDI in 2020, as reported by Dubai FDI Monitor.

And since the introduction of a part-time work visa for university students by Dubai Development Authority (DDA), even undergraduates can gain relevant work experience while easing the financial burden of university studies.

When it comes to uninterrupted access to higher education, student life that feels as close to normal as possible under the current circumstances, and the availability of employment prospects after graduation, the UAE is a haven for international students… amid the pandemic.

Mohammad Abdullah

The writer is Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park.