American college scales down in Dubai

Michigan State is set to close one of its branches due to a drop in enrollment.

michigan u 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
michigan u 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
An American university has been forced to close the doors at one of its campuses in Dubai after losing millions due to poor student enrollment.
Michigan State University has operated two branches in Dubai, the economic hub of the United Arab Emirates, since 2008. But after hopes that their Dubai International Academic City campus would be host to some 1,000 students by 2010, the university only had 100 enrolled, the Emirati daily The National reported.
The news comes a year after George Mason University closed its branch in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.
Analysts cite the economic crises as a potential cause of the university’s closure.
Many skilled expatriate workers left the UAE during the financial meltdown, taking their families and a large pool of potential students with them.
Dr. Warren Fox, Executive Director of Higher Education at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which overseas education in Dubai, acknowledged that Michigan State University has applied to change is structure in Dubai.
“Michigan State University MSU has submitted an application to Knowledge and Human Development Authority to modify their current programs,” Fox told The Media Line. “In turn, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority have forwarded this application to the University Quality Assurance International Board for their recommendations. Once the recommendation has been received, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority will be acting upon it, ensuring the best possible outcome for current students.”
Faculty members contacted by The Media Line declined to comment on the development.
Studying at an American university is populate throughout the Gulf, and five other universities have campuses in Dubai; including the Harvard Medical School Dubai Center, The American University in Dubai and Hult International Business School.
In neighboring Abu Dhabi, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has established a joint venture and the leading French university Sorbonne is opening its doors there soon as well. Across the water, Qatar’s Education City has brought in Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth.
Dr. Shafeeq Ghabra, founding president of the American University of Kuwait, told The Media Line that the closure should not be seen as sign of the region losing faith in American style universities.
“American education has not lost its allure, American education is still in high demand and highly regarded across the region,” Ghabra said. “The question is always related to supply and demand, and many universities have opened in the region in the last decade. This presents challenges [regarding] what to specialize in, do you have enough capital to start with, can you put together a good faculty, land costs…. All of this in times of economic crisis.”
Dr Mohammed Aboelenein, chairman of the department of sociology at the UAE University, said education plays an increasingly important role in Emirati society.
“Since 1971 and with the rise of the United Arab Emirates federal state, education has been given high priority,” he said. “The late Sheikh Zayed believed that education was very important for the country’s development. He put a great emphasis on human capital.”
Aboelenein said that during the 1970’s and 1980’s, the educational sector received substantial funding. The result was an expansion of student enrolments and solid educational infrastructures.
“The country continues to focus on education but there is much to be done in terms of the quantitative and qualitative aspects of education,” he said. “This vital sector deserves a higher percentage of Gross Domestic Production and a reevaluation of curricula.”
“In this information age and with its efforts to build a knowledge-based economy, the UAE must commit itself to human development,” Aboelenein concluded.
“Education is a key to the future of countries around the world. The United Arab Emirates is no exception.”