Middle Eastern students who are not yet ready to commit to a four-year university program need not worry – they have options. Universities in the Arab region offer many associate degrees, certificates and diplomas for students, including those considering overseas options, to begin their foray into higher education. But there are some things prospective students should consider.
Pros: A two-year degree could be cost-effective. Cost is one of the reasons why Jordanian national Riham Al Ramahi chose Al Khawarizmi International College, a private institution in the United Arab Emirates, where she graduated with an associate degree in computer graphics and animation in 2014.
“KIC has affordable tuition compared to other colleges,” says Al Ramahi, who wanted to join the job market immediately, rather than wait four years. She now works as a graphic designer for the school.
Ahmed Said Ghonim, president of the school, says associate degrees give students “the basic technical and academic knowledge and transferable skills they need in their jobs in a short time and at a lower cost.”
Fees at KIC are AED 2,400, approximately $653, per course for an associate degree and AED 3,000, approximately $817, per course for a bachelor’s degree. Ghonim says the school offers eight associate degree programs (which each require between 22 and 25 courses) and six bachelor’s degree programs. He says that 50% of the students come from other Arab countries.
Con: Parents may not be familiar with the degree. Lauren Jackson, co-founder and principal consultant of education and career consultancy ProEd in the United Arab Emirates, says that “many students and families are either unaware that a two-year degree is possible, or don’t think it’s an option. appropriate for them when pursuing university studies.”
Parents may have set their sights on larger, four-year universities that offer a wider variety of majors, minors, and classes and a larger faculty. The American University of Beirut, for example, has more than 130 programs leading to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.
Pros: Graduates can enter the job market directly. Palestinian Maysaa Adas graduated from the two-year dental assistant program at College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, a branch campus of a Canadian university, in 2009. The technical college offers about 30 certificate programs, from two and three years in four fields: engineering technology, information technology, health sciences and business studies, spokeswoman Meaghan Philpott said.
Adas will graduate from the three-year dental hygiene program in June. “I went to college because it’s the only option in the region other than Saudi Arabia, and I wanted to jump straight into a career and gain work experience before committing to a degree” , she says.
Between her two programs, Adas worked as a dental assistant in Texas for two years when her parents moved there. She returned to Qatar to join the new dental hygiene program because, according to her, it is “the only hygiene degree program offered in the GCC region”.
Adas works part-time in a dental office during the program and hopes to stay and work in Qatar after graduating.
“Oral health issues are a big issue here in this area and I love educating people to look and feel good,” says Adas.
Disadvantages: Some jobs require additional training or diplomas. ProEd’s Jackson says students who pursue associate’s degrees find employment in the Middle East and North Africa “although sometimes they may see their salary and benefits limited in the UAE.” She says a higher qualification can lead to “better jobs and opportunities for progression, and will also broaden the type of visa granted to them”.
Jackson says graduates with an associate degree typically find employment in business fields, such as accounting, after earning the appropriate qualifications, such as those from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, which she says some are doing simultaneously. They also find jobs in human resources, general administration, sales, and information technology, the latter of which, she says, is a popular field of employment for graduates with associate degrees.
“But I think the size and type of business will also affect their chances,” Jackson says.
Advantage: students graduate in less time. Jordanian national Ahmad Al Sharif was not ready to spend four years to graduate. After spending two years working on a bachelor’s degree in marketing at the Canadian University of Dubai – which offers several undergraduate and graduate programs and associate degrees in marketing and food safety – he changed course.
“I’m 24 and was supposed to be out of college two years ago,” says Al Sharif, who upgraded to an associate’s degree in marketing while starting his own business. “I wanted to finish as soon as possible and at the same time be educated.”
Pros & Cons: Transferring to a local university may be easier, but not all classes or credits are transferable. Jackson of ProEd says families view the associate degree as a bridge to help students transition from high school to a college-level program and improve grades for transfer to college, “or as a way to ‘to get to the best public university they want’.
Rema Menon Vellat, founder and director of Counseling Point Training and Development in the United Arab Emirates, says students can take one-year preparatory programs and associate degrees “to boost their English proficiency and ease the transition to work.” ‘university”.
However, students should note that not all classes and credits are transferable.
Canadian University Dubai, for example, will only accept transfers from a recognized and accredited institute and courses similar to theirs in a related program.
Vellat says associate degrees can benefit students who are unsure of what to major or pursue, as well as those re-entering the academic field after a brief time in the workforce. Overall, she encourages everyone to pursue “a lifelong learning mindset and keep improving their skills.”