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UAE sets a new tone for scholarship programmes in the Persian Gulf

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • A new Abu Dhabi-administered scholarship programme aims to fully fund degree studies in the US and Canada for 6,000 students by 2028
  • The programme relies on a 2+2 model, with students beginning their studies at a community college and then transferring to a university to complete their degrees
  • The new scholarships are targeted to the large field of students who have not been able to participate in earlier programmes that have been limited to top-ranked institutions abroad

The United Arab Emirates has launched a new scholarship programme that aims to send 6,000 Emirati students for degree programmes in the US and Canada by 2028.

The Khotwa (RizeUp) scholarship programme was announced in September 2022 and will be administered by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK). The AED1.9 billion (US$520 million) programme is targeted to students from a variety of academic and social backgrounds “to enable them to achieve their full potential and contribute to the growth of Abu Dhabi’s knowledge-based economy.”

Khotwa scholarships will provide full funding for participating Emirati students for their entire degree programmes, including homestay accommodation and up to a year of English language study.

The programme relies on a 2+2 model, through which students will begin their academic studies at a designated community college in either Canada or the US, and then transfer to an affiliated university to complete their degrees. The initial set of participating colleges were reportedly selected on the basis that (a) they operate their own English language programmes, (b) they are partnered with degree-granting universities, (c) they are engaged with ADEK-approved homestay providers, and (d) they are active within the Community Colleges for International Development (CCID) association.

In order to be eligible for a Khotwa scholarship, Emirati students must have an average of 65% or above in their final year of secondary studies, and an IELTS score of 3.0 or better. The first 170 Khotwa-funded students will begin their studies in the US and Canada in January 2023.

Where it fits

The programme stands in contrast to other scholarship initiatives in the region, some of which have sharpened their focus on top-scoring students and elite institutions in recent years. And as such it reflects a growing awareness among policy makers in the region that only a relatively small percentage of prospective students will be served by that focus on top-ranked institutions abroad.

Governments throughout the region, meanwhile, remain committed to Vision 2030 initiatives as well as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and are working to align scholarship programmes with those larger societal goals, including improving gender equity, reducing societal inequalities, and targeting fields of study to priority areas of industry demand.

Commenting on the Khotwa launch, Her Excellency Sara Musallam, Minister of State for Early Education and Chairperson of ADEK, said:

“This landmark programme is a strategic investment by Abu Dhabi Government to continue nurturing future-ready Emirati bachelor’s degree holders. Khotwa (RizeUp) will empower students who have not benefitted from our previous scholarships to study at international colleges and universities and graduate as highly competent, effective and productive citizens capable to enrich our national employment pool and play an active role in driving forward our knowledge-based economy.”

“Building on the success of employment rates exceeding 90% among ADEK’s scholarship graduates, we recognise the potential in providing opportunities. Consequently, we have expanded the scholarship matrix to include specific academic specializations – selected in close cooperation with government, national, and private entities – that will further enhance our graduate scholars’ employability.”

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