Well I am not sure how to start this, I cannot say that I am upset, and I cannot say that I am indifferent. I have to tell you what exactly went through my mind when I read this little article on gulfnews campus notes yesterday.
I have been working in the field of education since 2003, and before that people would enquire with me since I have been an international student almost all my life about universities and what not; the same comments arise, is this a ranked university? Is it high quality? What’s the employment rate for its graduates? Is the country safe? Are the people nice? etc etc
So I had assumed that the people are so wary about these facts, and built our small business around it. Then the mushrooming of the universities in UAE and the rest of the gulf happened. It was a real phenomena, the various ones that had sprung up in a 4 bedroom apartments, with two shelves of books and teachers that shake their heads when they speak, who have no previous teaching experience, I can go on and on, but I will stop here. However despite all of this the people who had previously questioned me on why I am choosing a particular university for their son or daughter, they themselves placed him/her in these joints. Of course the ultimate happened and some found out that they cannot go to master’s programme, some found out that they cannot practice medicine, some are working as hospitality employees rather than dentists; some were stranded as the university closed down and packed up and gone. There is no ranking system, and to top it all up, find out if any of these local universities are in any international list? I dont think so either. The gulf, and the Middle East do not feature, and if we talk about research, what we have in all of these countries put together may not even represent 1% of one single small university in the world. Also branches of international universities lower their acceptance criteria and their high standards when they open in the Gulf, whether it being in research or in quality of teachers, or in number of books available to the students in the library. I worked in one of these international universities, and the students would fight over a single book per subject that is placed in the library, even us the teachers didn’t have our own set, in one of the subjects I had to ring the main campus to send me a photocopy of what they have, and in turn I photocopied the book to the students. Well don’t ask about the local support services either, for example in the smallest university overseas you will find a book shop, a clinic, gardens, gym, many cafe’s and restaurants, over here these are scarce. The university doesn’t want to make it easy on the students, nor it want to encourage local businesses to open on its campuses.
My question here is why didn’t the parents ask the same questions to the local universities? Did they assume that a higher authority is going to look after these facts? I personally will not depend on a higher authority for this, unless of course I witnessed a track record? For example there are conflicting bodies, one that provides the assurance, and one that provides the attestation, so the latter will not attest it, as the assurance did not qualify with its standards. What do we do? I have no idea. But, having said that I think all of us the educators have the responsibility to speak up, and tell everybody to be careful, to evaluate, to compare and to think of 4 years down the lane when their kids graduate.
I am not sure if I will be heard, I dont really care, but my voice will have to be heard one day.