Following the city’s successful bid for Expo 2020, more international universities are showing interest in setting up a campus in Dubai. Fees at Dubai universities have continued to increase in recent years, along with the construction of bigger and more well-resourced campuses for students – showing signs of growth for the higher education sector.
Khaleej Times spoke with Dr Warren H. Fox, Chief of Higher Education, Universities and Colleges Agency at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), to know more about Dubai’s plans to become a top education destination in the Middle East. Excerpts from the interview:
What is the KHDA’s approach to regulate higher education institutions?
The KHDA is moving towards greater transparency and all our reports are available online for the public. We make a very basic decision on whether an institution is meeting the standards set by the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB). If so, we approve the course and if it is not meeting the quality requirements, the course is put on probation and it may be ultimately closed down.
Does the KHDA regulate fees charged by universities?
Currently, fees charged by higher education institutions are not regulated. We don’t set or control fees in this sector since it is quite different from schooling. There is a range of prices from which people can pick a course of their choice. Some programmes are more expensive because of their reputation and quality. Campuses undertake their own research and they are aware of the fact that higher fees can keep students away and they have to remain competitive.
Has there been any significant change post Dubai’s successful Expo 2020 bid?
Since the announcement of World Expo 2020 being hosted by Dubai, we have seen more interest from education providers. We are seeing a real increase and there has been a surge in the number of enquiries. Most of them are interested in setting up local private universities, although we encourage setting up of international branch campuses which bring their experience and quality when they open in Dubai. It is challenging to have a local campus grow and build itself over time.
Does the KHDA plan to allow independent campuses?
The Dubai Government has asked the KHDA to make recommendations on any new institutions in Dubai, whether local or international. We may allow local independent campuses to operate from the free zones in the future but we would require these campuses to be accredited by an appropriate body. The KHDA does not do any accreditations and our job is to ensure these campuses implement standards.
How can people know more about university courses available in Dubai?
‘Study in Dubai’ is a publication available in print and online. It is meant to be an easy to read quick reference for students and parents. It has details like location, fees, and courses. Every year in October, we do a census of all higher education institutions in Dubai. We plan to make more data public and highlights of student satisfaction surveys will also be released in a report. These surveys look at reasons why students join particular colleges and their attitudes and habits. It will provide an overview of what students are thinking.
What are the KHDA’s expectations from students and education providers?
We don’t know what the demand for higher education in Dubai is like. The expat community drives almost 90 per cent of the demand and only 10 per cent is supported by Emirati students. Majority of the Emirati students go to federal universities and the branch campuses mostly serve expats who make up a transitional population. People move in and move out all the time. Currently, there are 25,000 students in education free zones and the enrolment is increasing every year, leading us to believe there is demand.
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