Branch campuses forced to move out of Dubai

Afshan Ahmed
Filed on September 20, 2010

Some branch campuses in Dubai have had to shut operations and relocate to another emirate as they did not meet the requirements of the education authority.

The International Institute for Technology and Management (IITM) and Mahatma Gandhi University (MGU) that were located in Dubai Knowledge Village have had to shift to Ras Al Khaimah because they did not meet the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) models developed for university branch campuses operating in Dubai.

Another higher education institution, European University College in Dubai has discontinued its programmes in Dubai due to a restructuring at the home campus in Brussels. UQAIB was set up in 2008 to regulate the quality of branch universities being set up at Dubai’s free zones.

The body that works under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) began reviewing 28 campuses in Dubai based on guidelines that ensure that the standards at the branch are at par with the parent university. It does not accredit these universities, but based on a quality assurance procedure recommends them for education permits issued by the Regulations and Compliance Commission (RCC) for legal operation in Dubai.

Now, the two universities no longer feature on KHDA’s website. In April, Professor Roger Field, UQAIB member had told Khaleej Times that two institutes did not meet the requirements and were no longer operating within Dubai.

Mohammed Darwish, Chief of RCC said: “IITM had chosen to move out of Dubai as they didn’t fit the UQAIB model.” The campus which was offering the University of London’s external programme with courses from the London School of Economics in Dubai is now operating as the Western International College (WINC) in Ras Al Khaimah. More than 200 students were enrolled at IITM, Dubai, of which 150 will be continuing at the RAK campus.

It will be running the same courses that are affiliated to the University of London, and students will be awarded the same international degrees, according to Sudhir Kartha, college spokesperson

“Early this year, UQAIB informed us that IITM did not fit their branch campus model which was required to operate as a Higher Education provider out of the free zone in Dubai,” Kartha, said.

He said that IITM functioned on a different model that “did not fit the definition of a branch campus. Prestigious institutions like LSE are unitary campus institutions and, in spite of the academic rigour of our programmes we could never have qualified as a branch campus,” Kartha added.

At WINC, the academic material and lecture sessions are handled by the campus, the assessment is conducted by LSE and students take the examinations at The British Council centres in the country. All three centers have a different fee structure that students need to pay.

At MGU more than 300 students will have to relocate to the new building in RAK free zone. An enquiry revealed that the university is still attending calls for enrollments at its Dubai office but will be shifting by the end of the month to the new campus.

UAE is the largest importer of International Branch Campuses (IBC’s) in the world.

Many foreign universities have set up base in the country’s free zones due to the favourable operating environment. Universities that want to open in the RAK free zone have to undergo a review process but there are no set regulations for the campuses, yet. The rise in the number of IBCs has fueled a debate on the standards and need for tougher regulations of branch universities. In a recent policy brief to the Dubai School of Government, Jason E Lane from the State University of New York at Albany said the importation of foreign education providers has resulted in dual quality assurance mechanisms at the federal and local level and a significant duplication of degree offerings, regulation confusion and concerns about quality of some programmes.

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