Academic City plans campus facilities

Social and sport centres as well as student accommodation will be built to help Dubai become a regional hub for further studies.

Dubai, 15th September 2008.  Warren H. Fox, Ph.D. (Director of Higher Education, Knowledge and Human Development Authority), at the Dubai International Academic City.  (Jeffrey E. Biteng / The National)  Editor's Note;  for Daniel Bardsley report. *** Local Caption ***  JB0887-DrFox.jpg
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Student facilities similar to those on major university campuses are to be built at Dubai International Academic City. Social centres, sport facilities and student housing are planned for the education free-zone, which is intended to house 40 institutions and 40,000 students.

The new facilities would transform the site from a collection of academic buildings to a fully-fledged student community. The addition of housing would help students financially. University officials have said that high housing costs could deter potential students from enrolling for classes. Lecturers also would be provided with housing. Several branch campuses are based at DIAC, among them the French Fashion University Esmod, Heriot-Watt University and Michigan State University.

There are 10,000 students based at DIAC and Dubai Knowledge Village. Most universities in Knowledge Village plan to move to DIAC in the coming years as other institutions from overseas set up in Knowledge Village. Dr Warren Fox, chairman of the University Quality Assurance International Board, said the new facilities would make DIAC a more appealing place for students. "We will have facilities for students so that when they're studying they will have social and other facilities," he said.

A food court will open soon, to be followed within a year by the student housing and a social centre. There will also be a sport centre, a library and internet facilities. Housing could be shared by several institutions. Denis Ravizza, art director and associate dean at Esmod, which opened at DIAC in 2006, said: "It will bring a real student life, with students meeting each other and sharing in the development of the multicultural aspect of the campus, because there are so many nationalities. Student facilities will bring an interesting cultural life to the campus."

The significant increase in Dubai rents has forced some universities to charge students more. Michigan State University, for example, raised its annual housing charge from Dh22,000 (US$6,000) to Dh31,000 (US$8,400) this year. Mr Ravizza said the cost of housing "really has an impact" on whether students register. "That's the number one issue," he said. Dr Fox said DIAC would be the centrepiece of Dubai's bid to emerge as a regional hub for higher education.

"When you look at the population around the Gulf - from India up to the Arab world - there's a large area from which you can draw," he said. "We do expect, as the institutions develop, they will be drawing from the region. "People will want to come here because this is where the action is. By tying our programmes to the areas where Dubai has a world reputation, we'll become a regional hub and students will want to come here and be part of what's happening."

Subjects such as tourism, hotel management, shipping and finance are likely to be particularly popular among students, Dr Fox said.