Liberal education can prepare students for life

At the American University of Sharjah, we pride ourselves on the broad-based education of our grdiuates.

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I read Mick Randall's commentary Education is not about getting a job but preparing for life (October 21) with a great interest. I could not have agreed more with him that education is not only about getting a job. However, I beg to disagree with him when his underlying point assumes that business and management education lacks the elements of a fundamental liberal arts education.

At the American University of Sharjah we pride ourselves on the broad-based education of our graduates.

For example, my accounting students are required to take at least two years (out of four) of general education including humanities, social sciences, maths, art, languages and hard sciences before proceeding towards their major. As part of their accounting major we integrate educational activities that sharpen the students written and oral communication skills as well as interpersonal skills and teamwork.

The last thing we want to have are graduate students who are techies with little or no abilities to communicate, relate to others, appreciate the humanities and care about the environment.

A pure liberal arts education has its positive elements but may not prepare students to make a living. A better solution is in the middle ground and that is what the American higher education model is all about.

Dr Yass Alkafaji, Associate Professor of Accounting, American University of Sharjah


This is a very welcome article that poses a lot of interesting questions. At the American University of Sharjah, the article was distributed to the faculty by at least one dean who I believe absolutely shares the concerns of the writer.

However, I remain apprehensive about the ability of UAE universities to engage in a liberal arts education.

In fact, I would very much like to know who those two lonely students of philosophy are whom Dr Randall mentions and where they are studying. And what they are reading.

I am new to the UAE and cannot at all claim that I understand, or appreciate, the exact parameters of free thought in this region. But, so far, I remain sceptical. The ability to engage in, or, indeed, to encourage critical thinking is the sine qua non of a liberal arts education. If the answers to the major philosophical questions are already "known" and the history is already predetermined, there is little point in spending much time in those exercises.

In any case, this is a very welcome article, and I hope it generates the discussion it deserves in academic as well as other circles.

Ramez Maluf, American University of Sharjah

Doing a recount on cat population

With all due respect to the criticism of the comment from my colleague at Feline Friends, Dubai, in the letter Counting cats correctly (October 22), I would like to remind everyone that a single female cat can indeed be responsible for the production of over 20,000 offspring through all of her female offspring and their offspring, and so on.  Each and every one of her female descendants will contribute up to three litters per year for their reproductive lives, which in this part of the world is about four years, if they live on the street.

Street cats are important as they help keep unwanted pests like rats and roaches away, as long as the colony sizes are sustainable and they can feed themselves.

A good trap-neuter-release programme is the best way to keep healthy cats at the appropriate population for the colony size.

Pam Greer, Feline Friends, Abu Dhabi

Musing on fate of Wayne Rooney

Is it the end of the world when the world's "greatest" football club reminds us all that it is much bigger than any player, and 24 hours later tells us that, in fact, it is not as big as Wayne Rooney and his agent Paul Stretford?

The day before, in his weekly column for The National, entitled Rooney's agent and how he treated me (October 22), the former Manchester United striker Andrew Cole told us, reading between the lines, that Stretford was fine as long as he was making money for him while serving as his agent, and that he was happy that Stretford made lots of money out of him, while being paid to do so, but that Stretford was no longer on Cole's Christmas card list, obviously since Streford stopped making money for him.

Fine, Andrew. So I just imagine your column in the near future after Rooney has gone past his sell-by date and Stretford has long since lost interest in him. Rooney is left wondering why he is so rich, his mansion in Cheshire is so big and luxurious, his villa in Spain is so beautiful, his bank balance is so good, but his ex-wife still sends him such nasty text messages. He's not on the Man U website Hall of Fame with Edwards, Charlton, Best, Law and Giggs. Nobody can remember how many Premiership goals he scored, or who he was, unless they read it at the bottom of his own column.

Tony Lewis, Abu Dhabi