In Expansion Mode

‘in the next few years Manipal University will be an education force to reckon with in Dubai’’ may sound ambitious in an Emirate known for the most international branch campuses. But Director B. Ramjee backs his statement by underscoring the increase in enrolments and a plan to build a new state-of-the-art campus by 2011 to meet the demand.

By Afshan Ahmed

Published: Tue 23 Mar 2010, 11:50 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 3:08 AM

“This is a good place to invest in education, especially with the kind of support we get from the authorities,” said Ramjee.

“That is why we have decided to go further and invest heavily in the future of Dubai.” The university now located in a block of the Dubai International Academic City free zone cluster, housing another 12 foreign universities, will soon shift to a new 750 thousand square-feet campus next year.

Among foreign higher education institutes in the emirate, the Manipal University has the second highest student population after the University of Wollongong, with 1700 students.

Construction of the 250,000 square-feet academic block has begun. This can accomodate 2,400 students in the next academic session in April. “In the first phase we will move the academic core of the university and at the same time begin the construction of a student centre, cafeteria, faculty and student housing and an auditorium,” he said.

Anartist’s impression of the new Manipal University campus

PremjiInvest, a fund promoted by Wipro Group chairman Azim Premji, has pledged Dh160 million into Manipal Universal Learning, of which, Ramjee said “a significant portion will be utilised for the Dubai campus’’.

The off-shore campus of the University, a 56-year old higher education provider in India, was set up in 2000 in Dubai with 95 students. In 2003 it moved into a building in Dubai Knowledge Village that it shared with another institute. Restricted for space, the next shift was to a block in DIAC that enabled them to increase programme offerings and student numbers.

“We have seen dramatic increase in student numbers,” he said. “Even last year when many universities were having trouble recruiting we were close to 91 per cent of the previous year’s enrolments.”

The university positions itself as a multi-disciplinary institute for the working classes. “Our target is the lower middle to top middle class expatriate families who seek quality education for their children,” says the director.

“That bunch will always be here to drive our demand,” he said. The annual fee ranges from Dh26,000 to Dh35,000 annually and scholarships are awarded for academic excellence.

Students can choose from Media and Communication, Biotechnology, Fashion Design, Information Technology, Interior Design and Management. Engineering courses began in 2008 to cater to an untapped segment.

“We have been careful with the kind of streams we are offering as the intent is to fulfil a specific need like Mechatronics and Civil Engineering,” he said.

“We have already got 200 students within the first two years for these courses.”

The Media and Communication department of the university also garnered a lot of student interest last year with intakes doubling.

But the management is keen to increase its bouquet of academic offerings.

“More courses need to be set up in specialised disciplines of medicine, allied health sciences and liberal arts,” he said.

The university is also planning to start its first doctoral degree after applying to the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB), the regulator of universities in free zones under the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

So will the education at Manipal University in Dubai still be a feasible option for middle class expatriates after the expansion?

“Economic realities do dictate our position but we have always been reasonable in terms of expectation and are investing very prudently and with due diligence,”Ramjee said.

The Manipal University falls in Category A under the Indian government’s University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines with 38 other Indian institutes deemed as fit to function as universities.

It has been accredited by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), an autonomous body of UGC that assess institutions of higher education in the country.

It is also one of the only five Indian universities that have UGC permission to operate an off-shore campus.

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