Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tertiary Education in the UAE

Post-secondary schools here fall into two types: public and private. The Public schools consist of the University and the Higher Colleges of Technology (and, paraphrasing Hammet, how many lies can you count in the name 'Higher Colleges of Technology?').

There is only one National University, in Al Ain, with separate facilities for men and women; there are (in most Emirates) two Higher Colleges, completely separate, one for the men and one for the women.

The original plan was much like Western primary education: free for the students. Textbooks would be issued at the start of the semester (or year) either as a permanent gift to the students, or to be returned at the end of the course for the next batch. Students wouldn't pay for tuition, room, or board. Then the number of students (especially women) skyrocketed, and oil fell to $9 a barrel, and the Higher Colleges ran out of money. So they told the teachers to write their own textbooks. And Dubai figured out how to charge the female students, by selling them computers (at a fat markup).

The women work very hard, as standards are high, and failure means the student has to leave the college.

The men don't work, as standards are such that, should a man fail, his teacher has to leave the college.

The private institutions are on a strictly for-profit basis, and do whatever maximizes profit. The same as everywhere else. Only, in the West, for profit institutions give very little advantage for the money: graduates have a very hard time finding jobs, so these institutions have a hard time attracting student dollars. The most profitable institutions are the non-profits who don't chase after student dollars, and whose graduates are known to be a very select group of high achievers.

Here, most of the private market was aimed at students applying to firms that require a diploma, but who don't ask too many questions about the diploma. Until the Ministry of Higher Education said they were going to start enforcing standards.

Private universities panicked, and are afraid they will soon be held to the standards of mid-range Western universities.

Fortunately, the standards of mid-range Western universities have been steadily declining. At least one Western country changed its funding for state universities: now they only pay the university for students who graduate, so most (all?) of the universities in the country changed their marking policies to guarantee a 100% pass rate (they call it, improved pedagogical techniques). Then, to increase funding, the country's universities lowered their admission standards to increase enrollment. So now everyone in that (Western) country can easily obtain a university degree.

But what will happen in the nascent UAE tertiary education market remains to be seen.


Blogger Harsha said...

Its all about the money!

- from a student who's kinda paying her ass off to complete her education!

8:53 am  
Anonymous gautam said...

I completely agree with Harsha. There is just one phrase that describes it all. Education in Dubai " SUCKS".

- From a student who's working his butt off to pay for his university education.

PS. I study with Harsha.


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