MSU undergraduates make new plans

Students in the defunct programmes at Michigan State University's Dubai campus are transferring to other schools, with some opting to go abroad.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - APRIL 13:  Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) in Dubai on April 13, 2010.  (Randi Sokoloff / The National)  For Stock
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DUBAI //Students who applied for now-defunct undergraduate programmes at Michigan State University's Dubai campus have begun the process of transferring to other colleges in the UAE. Others are heading to MSU's main campus in the US or institutions in other countries for their studies.

It has been two weeks since MSU Dubai announced it would close its undergraduate programmes because of budget shortfalls, a move that affected 300 new applicants and 85 existing students who were expecting to begin classes in September. Staff at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) said the branch of the New York institution, which is based in Silicon Oasis, has become one local option. Hanan Khamis, RIT's director of student recruitment and marketing, said she hoped to absorb a significant number of the students who would otherwise have commenced studies this September at MSU.

She has since been inundated with calls from students and family members looking to relocate at a school in Dubai and stick with their chosen major. Four students heading into second year have also signalled their intention to transfer, she said. It will be the first year for undergraduate studies at RIT, which launched in 2008 offering only post-graduate courses and awaiting accreditation from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. Most of the students who have been contacting RIT are hoping for the same subjects they had planned to study at MSU, such as business, said Mrs Khamis.

"We're the only other American institution here with a home campus, and the students can go to Rochester in New York as part of the course, if they want," she said. RIT offers about 40 per cent of its students scholarships to help defray the cost of studies. Fees at RIT match the high fees of MSU and are among the highest in the country, at Dh59,000 a year. Students have also been applying to the American University of Sharjah - mainly those studying electrical engineering - and the American University of Dubai.

A clearer view of the number of students looking to transfer should come next week, said Mrs Khamis. That is when examination results will be published, including those from the critical mass of Indian high schools, and also when applications for visas for the students who were going to attend MSU are due to be confirmed by the US embassy. MSU was founded in the US in 1855, and expanded to Dubai International Academic City two years ago as one of 28 schools operating in the emirate's free zones. However, it failed to attract the kinds of numbers that officials had hoped for, and the campus fell millions of dollars into debt due to low recruitment numbers. The university is offering incentives to the 85 existing students affected by the closure to move to the US campus, including free flights home and the same amount of tuition they would have paid in Dubai. All of the students accepted to or attending MSU Dubai are eligible to attend the school's home campus, in East Lansing, provided they qualify for a student visa.

Matthew Flaherty, director of admissions at MSU Dubai, confirmed that half of the 85 current undergraduate students were looking to attend classes in East Lansing, while 10 of the 50 new admissions hoped to join them. Although he was not able to provide numbers when contacted yesterday, Sean Cooper, the US consul in Abu Dhabi, confirmed that all students who applied for a visa had secured one. Osama Basal, 19, is working on his visa to transfer to MSU's US campus. For him, the move was part of his plan.

"I always intended on transferring to the US," said the construction project management student. He is now awaiting his interview, and said he three more years to complete his degree in the US, so was happy with the situation. "It hasn't really affected me," he said. "I'm lucky." Taha el Hussein, a 19-year-old whose studies are sponsored by Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADDC), has chosen to travel to Australia to continue his degree in media management and research at Murdoch University in Perth. While Murdoch University has a campus in Dubai, it is not yet accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, so ADDC's sponsorship would not apply to his remaining two years of study.

"I was thinking of staying and studying at the one in Dubai, but my only option was Australia," he said. "I didn't want to go to the States, and my parents had doubts about it. "The fees will be cheaper in Australia, too," he added.