Dubai Choosing the wrong academic path without properly researching available options is one of the most common reasons for students dropping out of university or college, education officials have said. At a forum titled ‘Making Higher Education Choices in Dubai\' organised by the Dubai School of Government in partnership with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) yesterday, officials said that the most important decision a secondary school graduate has to make is the choice of a higher education course. Hence high school students and parents must make well-informed choices by seeking out information using available resources while choosing higher education institutions, taking into consideration the wide range of programmes and career options available, the KHDA recommended. The authority\'s recommendations to improve the students\' decision-making process were presented at the forum as a policy brief, authored by Fatima Bel Rehif, Head of Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau at KHDA, and Hanan Al Fardan, coordinator at the higher education department at KHDA. The paper identifies family, friends and peers, teachers, career counsellors and mentors as the key groups that influence decisions related to higher education institutions in Dubai. It urges pupils leaving secondary school, particularly Emiratis, to seek advice from multiple sources. It also calls for the need to encourage awareness within schools of the differing roles of career counsellors and guidance counsellors and the importance of providing access to both. \"Integrate a systematic approach across the school to nurture a broader awareness of career opportunities within society and particularly amongst Emiratis,\" the paper recommends. \"Another important factor that also needs be taken into account is the entry requirements for a particular course and the likely grades the student will be required to achieve. In making these choices, it is important to be realistic,\" the paper says. It called on higher education institutions to more actively engage with employers and the wider community to ensure that programmes offered and graduate skills are relevant to the job market. It also highlights the need for schools and universities to work more effectively with each other, including encouragement of participation in open days, career fairs, university fairs, etc. It urged the Dubai Government to use its resources to increase awareness about the courses offered, their employment potential and costs besides campuses. \"Over the last 10 years, Dubai has witnessed a significant growth in the number of institutions and the variety of higher education courses offered, especially at free zone-based institutions. School leavers can now access a wide range of courses and qualifications that are recognised by the private sector and government organisations,\" said Dr Abdullah Al Karam, director-general of KHDA. \"Our research and policy brief identifies the main factors affecting student choice. It additionally highlights the importance of providing accurate information and counselling to students and their families to help them make the right decision,\" he added. The paper points out that private universities have seen a considerable increase in their Emirati enrolment in recent years, despite the fact that enrolment in federal institutions is free for them. The wide number of programme offered here tend to be concentrated within a few fields, mainly in business, law, religion, IT and engineering, while there are fewer opportunities to specialise in natural and physical sciences, mathematics, education, agriculture, transport and health care. Statistics: Variety of programmes Dubai\'s higher education landscape boasts 52 institutions offering a variety of programmes. These institutions include federal institutions, branch campuses of international universities which are located in the free zones and private UAE universities. Federal institutions cater mainly to Emiratis, while the others cater mainly to the expatriate population. Nearly 43,000 students enrolled last year in Dubai campuses. In all, there were 281 bachelor\'s programmes on offer with a further 151 programmes also available for post-graduate study. Bachelor\'s programmes accounted for 69 per cent of students. Post-graduate programmes attracted 19 per cent of students. The most popular fields of study were Business (40 per cent of students) and Society, Law and Religion (19 per cent of students).