Despite challenges, most UAE-based applicants ready for university life overseas

Stock University students campus
The IDP survey shows that one in three students is likely to switch from his or her current study destination to another destination, if the university there can later provide face-to-face learning opportunities.
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Dubai: Despite reports of another wave of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions in many countries, UAE-based students are still “keen” to attend university abroad, new data show.

According to ‘IDP Applicants Survey’, conducted by IDP Education, more than 90 per cent of students are willing to undergo quarantine in destination countries rather than deferring their plans. Also, according to its ‘IDP Connect Report’, four out of ten students are willing to study online and then transition to face-to-face learning whenever feasible.

Meanwhile, one in three students is likely to switch from his or her current study destination to another destination if the university there can later provide face-to-face learning opportunities.

The findings were shared with Gulf News as IDP hosted its second virtual Study Abroad Expo on Friday and Saturday, attracting about 5,000 student registrations. This was done around the same time as its first virtual edition of the Expo in October 2020.

‘Not likely to defer’

Rashi Bhattacharya, country director, IDP Education, said some students are starting their university online from within the UAE, waiting for the opportunity to join face-to-face classes abroad on campus. “While students are fine to commence their course online, they are very keen to join their courses with face-to-face learning as soon as the borders open. Undergraduate students are keen to study online and then transition to face-to-face learning when possible, and are not likely to defer. In addition, while, postgraduate students may still prefer to study face-to-face, this continues to change and studying online does have cost benefits for self-funded students as they save on cost of living abroad,” she added.

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“There has been a slight adjustment in students’ expectations, but the demand is still there. We saw a large number of students go ahead with their plans to study abroad last year and in this year, even if that meant they had to begin their studies online due to border restrictions.”

Which countries are popular?

The United Kingdom, Canada and Australia continue to be the top three countries for students from UAE, Bhattacharya said. Also, besides the ever-popular business and engineering programmes, there has been “gradual growth” in computer sciences, artificial intelligence, data sciences, medicine, law and psychology programmes too, she added.

Making exceptions

To help applicants during these unprecedented times, many universities made exceptions based on individual students’ situations and offered solutions and support wherever possible, Bhattacharya said. Some extended deadlines to help students. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), whose main role is to operate the application process for British universities, had shifted its deadline from January 15 to January 29, for example. However, admission requirements were “not compromised” and “universities worked with the examinations boards very closely to make sure students had a fair opportunity to gain acceptance”, she added.

‘Streamlined visas’

The UK Government and the UK Home Visa have introduced “a streamlined visa process”, which was announced in 2020, to further ease the flow of international students to the UK from the UAE, Bhattacharya said.

Attendees of the virtual Study Abroad Expo can virtually connect with more than 100 universities from several countries, including the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

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IDP is also a co-owner of IELTS (International English Language Testing System), together with the British Council and Cambridge Assessment English. IDP runs more than 450 IELTS test locations across 60 countries, including the UAE.

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