UAE students considering online study confused by new advice

University students can now browse a list of institutions in the US, UK and Australia offering online degrees that are accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Lancaster in the north of England is one of the universities on the list that does offer online degree courses, and it has welcomed the ministry’s initiative as a way of attracting more Emirati students. Hufton + Crow / Corbis

ABU DHABI // Students considering online study have been left puzzled by a new list advising them of overseas universities that offer UAE-approved degrees.

The list, compiled by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, contains a number of universities that do not offer online degree courses.

They include the University of Cambridge, in England, and the London School of Economics, where a spokesman confirmed on Sunday that it “doesn’t do any distance-learning courses”.

Khawla Al Busaeedi, from the ministry’s certificate equivalency department, said there was still some clarification work to be done, and that the institutions listed were more recommendations by the ministry for general study, rather than strictly online.

Because the advice on distance learning and online study was “newly adopted by the ministry, it was necessary to develop an initial list of universities in order to guide students to a number of universities that they can enrol for this type of learning”.

“It is an initial list which is subject to change, to add or delete institutions, and the ministry is working to update the lists currently.”

The initiative follows warnings last year that students check with the ministry before starting any distance-learning courses to ensure their qualifications would be accepted by employers and government departments. “For any Emirati to get their online degree attested they have to get a no-objection from us before they commence,” said Dr Bader Aboul-Ela, director of the commission for academic accreditation at the ministry. “It’s for their own protection.”

Despite the list’s inaccuracy, foreign universities have welcomed it as a way to attract more UAE students.

“Historically we have had very few students from the UAE but we have more than 2,500 international students from over 100 countries,” said Prof Steve Bradley of Lancaster University in the north of England. “We are keen to build on our links in the UAE and so welcome more students.

“We have identified the UAE as a priority for the recruitment of students to the Lancaster campus and also on to our small but increasing number of distance-learning programmes.

“This listing is therefore very good news for Lancaster. Lancaster University is a top 10 UK University with an outstanding record for student satisfaction and a strong research and teaching reputation.”

Matthew Virr of the University of Warwick, also in England, said 5 per cent of its undergraduate applications and 14 per cent of postgraduate applications were from UAE nationals.

“The UAE is viewed as a priority market for the university with a significant number of strong schools that consistently send students to top Russell Group Universities including Warwick. We expect this to continue to grow over the next five years.”

The University of California Berkeley also welcomed the online system, particularly as the numbers of UAE enrolments to its online courses has been low. In 2011, only 10 out of 10,000 online enrolments were from the UAE. Currently there is one UAE student working towards a degree online.

“As a public institution, UC Berkeley is always looking to increase student access. Online education is an important part of the mission, particularly for disseminating knowledge globally,” said Diana Wu, executive director of the Berkeley Resource Centre for Online Education.

“In the past two years we have seen students from the UAE enrol in a number of our different academic offerings ranging from individual online courses to fully online degrees. We appreciate the Ministry of Higher Education recommending UC Berkeley and look forward to continuing to help Emiratis meet their academic goals.”

mswan@thenational.ae