Students need to better equip themselves through highly focused higher education and job-oriented courses to face the tightening employment market in the wake of the global financial crisis.

This view was expressed by top academics and industry representatives who attended the opening of the International Education Show at Expo Centre Sharjah today.

The fourth edition of the show was opened by H. E. Sheikh Sultan Bin Ahmed Bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman of Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authorities. It will end on November 30.

Dignitaries who attended the opening ceremony included Mr Ahmed Mohammed Al Midfa, Chairman of the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI), Mr Saif Mohammed Al Midfa, Director-General of Expo Centre Sharjah, and Mr Fasahat Ali Khan, Adviser to the Chairman and Board of Directors of Expo Centre Sharjah, among others.

"The show is an important event in the academic calendar of students seeking to pursue undergraduate, postgraduate and vocational courses in leading educational institutes in the UAE as well as abroad," said Mr Midfa.

"The leaders of the country have been endeavoring to give an added impetus to the education sector to develop the nation's human capital and mould the future generation. In this regard, education has been given top priority in the UAE budget for the fiscal year 2009. Seeking to lay greater emphasis on educational activities, the sector has been allocated 23 per cent of the total spending of Dh42.2 billion," said Mr Midfa.

"This will help the country to place added emphasis on improving the quality of education and upgrading higher education institutes and their programmes," he added.

"The show should also be of help to students to take the right decision on the course of study and the institute they wish to enroll in. This will also be an opportunity for institutions to take in the most talented and deserving students," he added. "We have brought together the cream of the educational institutions from the world over. You can find the stalls of around 100 acclaimed institutions of higher learning from Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the UAE," said Mr Saif Mohammed Al Midfa.

"The profile of institutions includes top-notch universities, colleges, polytechnics, IT institutes, business schools, technical management training Centres, medical schools, hotel management institutes, fine art schools, language Centres, aviation colleges, distance-learning institutes, and other tertiary institutions," said Mr Midfa.

"The show will be a good opportunity for working executives to take up an evening or distant-learning course that will help advance their careers," he added.

Besides institutes of higher learning, the Education Show is also showcasing student publications, banks engaged in providing loans for educational purposes, professional examination bodies, and immigration consultants.

Reflecting the significance they attach to the show, prominent institutions have come forward to support the Education Fair. University of Dubai is the platinum sponsor, while Dubai International Academic City is the Gold Sponsor and Acer the silver sponsor.

"Job-oriented courses will be a hot favourite among students. Professional development courses too will have many takers. Another highlight that is sure to be popular is counseling services and seminars that will be held alongside the show," said Mr Khan.

"Apart from their favourite course there are several other finer details that students have to consider before taking the final decision. A counseling session or a chat with the representatives of institutions will help students and parents a great deal in this regard," added Mr Khan.

The show will also be a key platform for student counselors, policymakers, researchers, teachers and officials from local universities and agencies to check out new programmes and latest curricula additions and explore tie-ups with foreign educational institutions.

The Education Show is a joint initiative of the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Expo Centre Sharjah and is supported by the National Human Resource Development and Employment Authority (TANMIA) and the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI).