Will coronavrius pandemic delays affect UAE students applying to universities this year?


Thousands of students in the UAE, who will be starting university this year, are feeling uncertain about what to expect, with online learning and physical distancing measures likely to be in place.

High school students had to deal with Covid-19 lockdowns amid preparing for their board examinations and now, many are worried if the ongoing crisis would pause an year for them. Many have had life-long dreams to study in international universities. They are now preparing to undertake online classes for the first semester and head over to the UK, Canada, Australia, and the US for the Spring intake.

While students are eager to undergo new experiences, parents are worried about the safety of their children.

More students to consider ?local universities

Many international universities with campuses in the UAE are seeing a surge in enrolments this academic year, thanks to generous scholarships and transfer programmes. Universities such as Murdoch, Herriot-Watt, Curtin, and the Canadian University of Dubai is allowing students to study the first few semesters in the UAE, and later transfer credits to their dream universities.

“Enrolment applications seem to be running as normal, which is a hopeful sign. It is difficult to say, at this point, if the students would accept offers and join us. I think more students are looking to join universities here than in the past,” Dr James Trotter, dean of Murdoch University told Khaleej Times.

Cancelled examinations add to student woes

Pupils were in limbo after UK’s GCSE and A-level exams, and India’s CBSE exams were cancelled. International Baccalaureate (IB) students were awarded diploma, career-related programme certificate or a course certificate based on predicted grades.

“The achievement will be based around the students’ coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigour and quality control already built into the programmes,” announced IB on June 11. “A predicted grade should be based on all the evidence of the candidate’s work and the teacher’s knowledge of IB standards.”

Adithya Mathew, a 17-year-old IB student of Dubai American Academy, has received an acceptance letter to study medicine from the Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. “The university said it would start a month later than September. I am hoping flights would resume by September or October. I am worried to leave home under these circumstances, especially having to undergo isolation upon return.”

“We are worried about his health, but since he has decided to become a doctor, disease and infections are something he will have to face for the rest of his life, anyway,” added Adithya’s mother Leeza George.

Hoping to get an unconditional acceptance letter

Due to cancelled examinations, students who have received conditional acceptance letters from their universities are still waiting for a final decision on their admission status. Risha Sequeira, a 17-year-old graduate of the Indian High School in Dubai, has gotten a conditional offer letter from the University of Waterloo in Canada.

“My classes start in September. I have accepted the conditional offer which came through in January- February. The university usually waits till mid-July for the CBSE board results to give a final offer, but they might postpone that to a later date,” she said. While Risha will attend online classes organised by the university in September, she still hopes to make it to Canada by January 2021.

Students who aspire to study in the US face a similar conundrum. Though the varsities are open to accepting them, they are extremely concerned for their wellbeing given the extraordinary circumstances. Neil Banerjee, a parent said: “I wanted to send my son to Syracuse University. But now, it looks very difficult.”

Not so easy for students wishing to study in India

For students who aspired to study in India, matters are a bit more complex. Jagruti Dialani, a 17-year-old commerce graduate from the Indian High School, has had her business studies paper of the CBSE board exams cancelled and hence, not been able to make an application to Jai Hind College, Mumbai.

“By now, I would’ve been in Mumbai. Since one exam was cancelled, I am worried my overall percentage would drop considerably and that would affect my chances for admission for Bachelors in Mass Media,” said Jagruti.

Students like Jagruti said they hope to fare better in the board examinations as internal examinations are comparatively tougher. “I am confident that I can score well if I am allowed to write the exam even now. I am concerned if I would have to waste an entire year because travelling to India, especially Mumbai, which has been so badly affected by Covid-19 is not feasible,” she said.

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