Stringent due diligence procedures, including in-depth market research and the acquisition of regional knowledge, are essential considerations when setting up branch campuses of higher education institutions.
Academic institutions are also advised to adopt a measured pace initially, offering only well-known programmes with broad appeal during what can be termed as the ‘incubation period’, according to Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of TECOM Investments’ Education Cluster.
Dr Kazim’s comments came at a session titled: ‘Higher Education Models in the Middle East’ at the 24th Annual Europe Association for International Education (EAIE). Held recently in Dublin, Ireland, the annual event is the largest international higher education conference in Europe. Themed ‘Rethinking education and reshaping economies’, the four-day event featured sessions and workshops on topical subjects relevant to the global education landscape. Dr Kazim also advised for the introduction of a limited number of new courses and a steady increase in student intake, backed by informed support from the parent campus, to ensure a consistent delivery of quality education at a branch campus.
Attracting rectors, vice-rectors and directors of international offices, as well as managers of international education programmes, educators, researchers, decision makers in international higher education and government representatives, EAIE serves as a leading platform for the exchange of ideas, familiarisation with best practices, and debate on policies and current trends within the education sector.
Highlighting the UAE’s five-point strategy to enhance the quality of higher education in the country, Dr Ayoub Kazim stated that the government continues to encourage symbiotic relationships with the corporate sector and monitor the quality of programmes at private universities and community colleges. As part of its commitment to improving the quality of education from the grassroots level and prepare school students for higher education, the government periodically reviews the curriculum to ensure conformity to quality standards. The UAE also continues to work towards the simplification of processes such as visa applications in order to ease the transition for new students.
Dr Kazim added: “In addition to providing strong support, the government has prioritised the shaping of a regulatory framework that is clear, transparent and effective. The UAE’s strategic location, its advanced infrastructure and facilities, as well as strong marketing, regional visibility and the presence of a highly skilled human capital are among the key factors that help build the potential of the country’s education sector.”
Dr. B. Ramjee, Director of Manipal University, Dubai, said: “A significant youth bulge is being experienced in the region with 15 – 24 year-olds accounting for 22 per cent of the population. This demographic has led to an exponential growth in the demand for higher education in the region. The Middle East consequently offers immense opportunities for higher education to flourish in the short term and for the foreseeable future.”
Presenting Manipal University Dubai as a successful case study, Dr Ramjee said the institution has evolved into an inter-disciplinary University Branch Campus in Dubai. Operating at Dubai International Academic City since 2006, Manipal University offers 25 programmes in six disciplines. With over 1,500 students on its roster, the university that boasts alumni of more than 2,200 graduates is well poised for further growth in the MENA region.
Launched in 2007, Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) is the world’s only free zone dedicated to higher education and the largest academic zone in the UAE with nearly 20,000 students in 2011-12 academic year. Hosting 21 International Branch Campuses (IBC’s) of the UAE’s total 37 IBCs, DIAC is home to 53 per cent and 23.5 per cent of the universities in the UAE and the GCC according to a UNESCO Report. DIAC has also been ranked among the top 25 in the Middle East under ‘Best Overall’ category by the 2010 Financial Times Rankings.
Source: ME Newswire – Press Release – 26 September 2012