It used to be the dream of every parent to see their child go to University. Now it’s almost taken for granted that the majority of students in the Western world will go on to study in further education. When you are living as an expatriate in the UAE, it is considered a natural progression for every child to work towards a place. But where do most of the students go on to study? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of being a student abroad?
For the purpose of this article, WSA has researched students moving on to university education in the UK from a British curriculum school in the UAE.
In Years 11 and 12, students are invited to undertake an interests test and psychometric evaluation that can determine their strengths, abilities and suggested career paths.
Most schools have a dedicated careers department that encourages the students to research potential careers and help them choose the relevant A-level subjects they should take. Naomi, a Careers Advisor at a British school in Abu Dhabi said, “All students will have 1:1 guidance interviews with myself or a member of my team where we discuss their subjects at GCSE, AS and A2 level; their career ideas; their skill profile and how to research different careers and university courses.”
By Year 13, when students are studying for their A-levels, many schools invite Universities to come for an Open Day. The students will then draw up a shortlist of the five that they will apply for, and the universities will tell the student what grades they are expected to achieve.
“The majority of our students have a preference for the UK,” explains Naomi, “but many also opt for the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and some even decide to stay here in the UAE.”
The student will have to write a ‘Personal Statement’, which goes with their University application. Schools will coach students on this and allow them to write the statement within school time.
All over the world, on A-Level results day students and parents go through a stressful 24 hours securing the University of choice.
Will studying in the UAE put my child at an advantage?
Some would say that coming from an overseas environment would put students at a disadvantage, but given that the world of education is now more global than ever before, most parents agree that expat children are at a great competitive advantage.
According to parents in the know in the UAE, the UK is increasingly favouring overseas students because the fees are more expensive and therefore there is more money associated with them. They have to have the same qualifications as any other international students.
Expatriate students in the UAE are privately educated and families tend to be fairly wealthy which can broadens choices within the education of the child. In turn their UCAS profile letter stands out.
Sara Wright, a teacher and mother of a son who has gone through the education system in the UAE and is now studying Geography at University in the UK, gives an example, “Normally UK School Duke of Edinburgh trips would take place in the UK but in the UAE the Silver and Gold trips go to Mauritius or Thailand, thus broadening the experiences geographically and culturally for the student. Model United Nations is also very popular over here and Universities like to see this on ‘CV’s particularly for the oversubscribed and elite medical and law courses. The UAE is strategically positioned for travel with India, Africa and Asia very close by, so all sorts of exciting and out of the ordinary experiences are easily on hand.”
Are there any disadvantages?
“Children educated and brought up in the UAE are not prepared for life,” according to Agnes Holly, a long time resident of the UAE and mother to five children, two of whom are studying at UK Universities.
She adds, “There are a high percentage of drop outs in the first year of university for even the brightest of students because, going from a relatively sheltered expatriate lifestyle in the UAE to an independent, city such as London, young adults are exposed to so many environmental factors that detract from why they are there in the first place – to study.”
Despite the global travel and endless opportunities, UAE teens are not allowed, under UAE Labour Law, to officially do any part time work. This, Agnes believes, is another issue that is apparent when they leave UAE shores. “Their work ethic is very different to other students. They have never actually been able to do any part time work, so their life experience is very limited compared to many students coming from less privileged backgrounds in the UK.”
See also: WSA’s article ‘Preparing them for University’ – 5 tips