Global branch campuses need more regulation

The UAE should be proud to host the largest number of international university campuses in the world. But the challenge lies in ensuring the quality of education they deliver.

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Over recent years, the UAE has forged a reputation as a regional hub for higher education. There are now 26 branch campuses of international universities in this country, most in Dubai, which represents the highest concentration of such facilities in the world.

But what exactly is a branch campus? A definition of the term can be found in the latest report by Transnational Education, one of the UK’s education regulators, which states that a branch campus should match the supportive environment and range of facilities offered to students based in the home university.

In other words, a branch campus should deliver the same quality of education as the institution from which it was spawned. In Abu Dhabi, the branch campuses of New York University and Paris-Sorbonne are good examples of this, while in Dubai, both Middlesex University from London and Heriot-Watt University from Edinburgh are also highly rated. In each of these four cases, the academic programme has the same validation and monitoring system as the mother campus and in some cases there is a free flow of students and faculty between the two locations.

Unfortunately, as The National reports today, that is not always the case.The Dubai branch of the UK’s Strathclyde Business School offers just one course to students and operates out of rented offices. It is little more than an administrative outpost of a foreign institution. This kind of compression of quality is one of the negative but inevitable consequences of a rapidly developing market.

It is important that such campuses are properly regulated, particularly those institutions operating in free zones. Even though Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority does oversee the sector, private universities in the emirate’s free zones are not subject to such oversight. This kind of loophole will inevitably create confusion among students about local degree recognition and that, in turn, is bad for the entire education sector.

Only proper national oversight will ensure that this country continues to attract students from all over the world .

Global branch campuses play a significant role in developing education in this country by helping to meet rising demand, bringing certified quality programmes and offering international degrees recognised around the world. Better regulation would help students to ensure that they are getting proper value for their education.