This was the best initiative of DIAC. It shows that they are open minded and want to make changes to create a real educational village in the country. Ok now of course there will be teething problems, nothing that we cannot solve with constant discussions, the wheel is created already and all we need is to adapt to what the top universities in the world had done to make our universities come in the top list. It’s sad to find no Middle Eastern university in the top list: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/hybrid.asp?typeCode=431&pubCode=1&navcode=148 and even sadder that we are not aspiring to be on that list. In actual fact universities over here defend themselves when criticized rather than try to implement the change and aspire to meet the top list criteria.
The discussion at the forum revolved around making Dubai an Education hub. Discussions went over the accreditation and the choice of programmes offered, also some discussions on business participations and contribution to the research done by the university (if at all).
In my opinion, all the universities in the UAE should be accredited by the ministry of higher education and scientific research (CAA), we cannot avoid this issue at all, having DIAC accreditation is fine, but a more understood accreditation process is far more reliable to overseas universities especially for those students who are pursuing their higher education over there. Also what we need to do is to pursue international accreditations for example engineering schools should be accredited by ABET, business schools should be accredited by AACSB, education schools should be accredited by NCATE, and so on, there is no way that we can avoid this and still consider ourselves a hub? The two things cannot go together.
The second thing is the choice of programmes on offer, we are limiting these to a few, if we search any top university we will find in the same faculty many choices for students, for example some universities have over 25 majors in the business field only, these majors are linked to the career choices students are provided with at young age at their schools. Many schools lack this feature and career advice is lacking in most if not all government schools. Are we taking measures to correct this deficiency? I guess not.
The third thing is research, it was mentioned at the forum that most universities stress on research. In actual fact the lecturers have a formula that they work with, most of the time its 20% research and 80% teaching at undergraduate level and this formula reverses at postgraduate level. "Publish or perish" is taken seriously in most of the advanced world as it’s the only way the university can make a room for itself in the hotel of 7 stars universities. We have two reasons on why our universities are not even close to that hotel. The first reason is the love for making money, they hire the cheapest teachers and not the best teachers. And the second reason is lack of funds for research or ( lack of available funds for research).
However most of the top universities are able to do research because the companies and the government pump them with funds, and most importantly research questions, is this done over here? I guess not.
The companies and businesses in the UAE neither pay tax nor do they have that mindset of contributing to the betterment of the society by providing cash to the institutions to do research that improves the world that we live in; They are not even thinking of sending their business problems to the universities to enable them to find answers via student/teacher collaborations. If this happens it will have many implications, the business will find good candidates for their future recruitment process and the universities will have money to spend on research, and the country will prosper as we are in actual fact able to recruit more overseas students to come to Dubai and enjoy the country and study at the same time. We have many brilliant qualities, but we lack in the important ones. So I wish the next forum will discuss ways to improve this side of the equation.