Things to consider while choosing a university

Monday 5th of February 2018 12:00
Choosing a university can be difficult when you have a number of options and do not know where to begin. A number of things need to be taken into consideration before you fill that application. Here is guide or checklist of things to be looked at before you enroll at a university.
1- Check to see if the university has relevant accreditation from the Ministry of Education or their Dubai and Abu Dhabi wings- KHDA or ADEC:
The related certification received by universities is a verification of the authenticity of the course in question. It’s important to note that unaccredited university program degrees will make for a lot of trouble when it comes to finding a job or going abroad for higher education. When it comes to accreditation, the main authority is Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR). University programs might be directly accredited by the Ministry or by KHDA or ADEC. Two main educational free zones in Dubai are - Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV). DIAC and KV are purpose-built zones in Dubai that provide facilities and infrastructure for higher education. They have attracted institutions from all around the world to provide high-quality international degrees. Other purpose-built areas that include higher education institutions are Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai Healthcare City, and Dubai Silicon Oasis. The University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) was established by KHDA to assure the quality of education at higher education institutions in the Free Zones. UQAIB uses a validation model to ensure that the academic program delivered in Dubai is the same accredited program taught at the institution’s home campus. All higher education institutions located in Dubai’s Free zones must undergo the UQAIB quality assurance process. For Abu Dhabi Universities, ADEC also issues accreditation to programs. While in the rest of the Emirates, MoHESR issues the certification. It’s important to note that the university programs might be accredited via MoHESR or KHDA or both. Unless applying for governmental positions, KHDA/ADEC approval is also valid for higher education/job requirements. Besides this regional accreditation, there a number of program-related international accreditation that universities are gives for quality assurance. These international accreditations give value to your program and also in many cases offer benefits like transferring to another accredited university abroad without much paperwork, easier asses to higher education abroad etc. To find out more about the main types of international accreditation in the UAE and their uses please check out our animation on Accreditation.
2-  Date of establishment of the university:
You might have heard of this particular criterion from your school advisor- the older the university the better established and reputable it is. Though there is some truth to the statement, in the present day educational sector of UAE, it is not everything. Certain new universities like NYUAD, which was established in 2010, is one of the most reputable universities in the UAE. Other well-established universities like American University of Sharjah (AUS), are also known for their quality and research as well in the region. Therefore, the age of the university is not something that needs intense focus.
3- The campus and facilities provided by the university:
The campus and facilities provided by the university are important factors to take into consideration when you are applying for higher education. The university should have basic facilities such as a dedicated library, canteen, sports area etc. Besides these, the university should have program-specific labs, equipment, latest technology, and studios. If you are enrolling for a biotech degree, make sure the university you’re looking at has a specific lab and relating technology. You need to also make sure that the labs have dedicated and qualified technicians for better education.
4- Fee /Payment guidelines and deadlines/Finance options:
The fee is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a university. Make sure to see if the course you are applying to falls within your budget. Also, make sure to check out about the payment methods and clauses regarding the payment deadlines. These need to be addressed so that you do not end up in a financial issue. Look at the university’s fee raise policies, additional lab fees, and subject fees to get a better understanding of the overall amount of the course. Certain universities might have clubs that require payment, therefore inquire with the university student’s services get the overall picture. Almost all universities offer varying types of scholarships or grants for prospective students. Avail these scholarships/grants when possible. Most of the scholarships are Merit-based, however, some of the universities do offer sports, extra-curricular scholarships to students who have achieved awards in the particular area. The type of scholarship is different from universities. The program might offer a 15% waiver from the overall tuition fee or might offer 15% off the first year /semester. Get in touch with the university to see if they offer a scholarship that best suits you.
5- Course and electives:
Universities should have a variety of courses and electives for the students to choose from. If you are interested in a particular course, make sure to check out the course structure and possible electives. Keep a lookout for courses and electives that are specific to your career needs. Make sure to also check if the course plan reflects the changes and innovations of the particular field. To be on the safe side, check with the university about the process involved in changing your course. This will help you understand if the university is easier on the student transfers.
6- Qualifications of the Teaching staff.
The teaching faculty should have relevant education and knowledge of the subjects. Universities usually update their websites with the CV’s/qualifications of the teaching staff. The professors should be qualified in their field of study and be updated with the present-day innovations and technologies. More than often the faculty will involve in research and might have published works available for student reference. If you are looking at a university, make sure to go to their website and see the qualifications of the teaching staff. If the qualifications are not available, then meet the school counselor to know more about the teaching faculty.
7- Get online and searching
Universities give information regarding their courses, fees, scholarships and enrolment rate on their website. However, it is worth noting that most universities have a very strong social media presence. Besides checking out the official web page of the university, make sure to go onto their other online portals to get an understanding of their teaching programs, industry visits, cultural activities and more. If you are keen on finding out more information regarding the student life at the said university, connect with the students of the university through Facebook. More than often, students are more than happy to answer a few questions about the university. However, refrain from sending a bunch of unwanted texts before actually being friends on Facebook. Another option is to email the university directly. If they get back to you soon, it’s a green light that you might be going on the right path of choosing a university.
8- Alumni achievements and groups
One of the key factors that indirectly determine the success of the university is the Alumni. Universities proudly present their alumni who had went on to achieve phenomenal success in their respective fields. Check out what positions the alumni of each university occupy and their perspective of the university. This is not an important criterion to judge a university upon but it nevertheless gives you an understanding of the university’s reputability. A university’s commitment to its students does not stop after graduation; alumni groups are the perfect support system for students graduating from the university. The Alumni group provides a networking system for the members to better navigate through work life. They also provide a platform for job seekers who graduated from the university while at the same time providing a talent pool for previous alumni members.
9- Career advise/development center
Getting a degree isn’t the only thing when it comes to choosing a university. When looking at colleges, you need to make sure that the university provides adequate help and support when it comes to career prospects. The university that you seek should have a strong career development center. Check to see if the university also has tie-ups with companies for internships and work experience.
10- Industry affiliations and exposure
Though theoretical knowledge is important to understand basic concepts, students should be able to practice them in the field. One way that colleges manage this is through industry affiliations and on-field training. When looking to apply, check out the industry affiliations and tie-ups the university has for the particular course. Usually, the university website will site the industry visits and be training under their ‘News’ section or under the course details. If the information is not available then get in touch with the course co-coordinator to better understand the universities on field training.
11- Branch campus experience
There are plenty of international universities with branch campuses in the UAE. At a glance, they might seem to offer the same level of teaching and support the parent campus offer. Nevertheless, certain branch campuses in the UAE are not verified by the parent campus or holds a completely different standard of education as opposed to the parent university. Make sure to check the university’s policies regarding transfer to the main campus and compare the standard of education of both. Check the faculty at the branch campus to see if they have trained with the parent campus or is qualified by the main branch. The branch campus in question should have a clear communication with the main campus and the program certifications need to be verified by the parent campus. Also, check to see if the branch campus in the UAE is accredited by Ministry of education subsidiaries like KHDA or ADEC.
12- Foundation/general studies
Many institutions here have embraced the American model of Foundation/General studies. Although you may have excellent grades in Mathematics and English, you might be forced to take a Foundation course merely because it is compulsory for all students. You could waste up to two semesters doing subjects that are of little value to you. Some universities ‘persuade’ students to leave school at Grade 11 and join a Foundation year. Be warned that if you do this, you might suffer the consequences later when you want to pursue a postgraduate degree in the west. You might be asked to prove that you have completed 12 years of schooling. Also, see if you need to take any additional certification programs like TOEFL or IELTS for English requirement needs.
13- Research and teaching
Check out if the university you are applying to has faculties with experience in research methodologies and writing. Research is an important component for completing a lot of courses, therefore, it is important to see if your potential research mentors have sufficient experience in the field of academic writing.
14- Policies relating to the university
University policies should be read and understood before choosing the college. Policies relating to teaching and finance need to read thoroughly. For example, the fee changes and payment deadlines are important things to remember. Go one step further and get in touch with the university’s finance department and check out the deadlines, penalty for the delay and all relating information. The rules and regulations for turning in an assignment and relating deadlines are specific to each university. Make sure to read the specifications for passing exams. It is worthwhile to see if the university has any policy relating to re-examination for increasing grade points.
15- Social media – Facebook/twitter activities, university events
Current students are the best reviewers for any university. Get online and look at the kind of activities that the students are involved in. See if the university hosts any events and what kind of involvement the students have in hosting it. Go to the student’s council page of the university to see the level of engagement the students have with the administrative department of the university. A strong and responsible student’s council is inductive of the university’s commitment to bettering their students’ life. photos from 2 years ago imply that it is short-staffed or has a limited budget allocated for marketing or PR. This may not affect the quality of courses but for some students, it is important to go to a well-known university and not one that has never been heard of. Additionally, it will be interesting to see if there is a ‘conversation’ between students and staff and what this conversation is mostly about!
16- Employment rate
Employment is rate is something that almost all universities in the UAE boast about. Unfortunately, universities at times provide a vague idea as to how they have arrived at a particular percentage. Get in touch with the career development department/career center of the university to best understand the employment rate of the university. Some universities include students who are already hired in their employment rate while certain universities base the percentage on the student who has been interviewed for positions.
17- Technology/online learning
This last one might seem minute detail compared to the rest, but it is none the less important to take note of. A university that claims quality education should have a well-functioning library that provides a vast number of study material both online and in the form of books. The library should also have dedicated systems to access online study material and resources. Check to see if the library has a dedicated database for research and study. Also, see if the university has any additional study materials in the form of audio-visual (AV) formats.   All in all the choosing a university might be a daunting task, however, if you keep to the said list above you are pretty much-covered everything.