Below is an overview about the higher education scenario of Gulf Countries such as UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. this was provided to an education guide published by #edubeanz
Can you brief the history of higher education in gulf countries?
The gulf countries has a tradition for higher education as since the early 50’s its people were traveling abroad to study in top universities in the UK and Europe, of course the people were also going as far as India, Egypt and Japan to study. Most of the gulf countries stated their universities in the seventies, even though this didn’t stop us from going abroad to gain more qualification, learn from the culture over there and bring back not only education but a different way of life.
What all future challenges and opportunities you foresee in higher education sector in Gulf?
Since the early 90’s many universities had started to open its doors to branches in the gulf. As we speak we have over 87 universities in the UAE, more than 20 universities in Qatar, many in Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Most of these universities are private depending mainly on expats living in these countries or students who are not allowed to enter the source universities due to visa issues. I believe that the trend is on the upward growth, and since most of these universities are private they all look for means to become high ranked and try to produce high quality research. The challenges are mainly in the ranking as whatever they do may not or will not be equivalent to what the ranked universities do, but I think they are trying. What we have in the gulf is strong family ties, new industries and commercial growth, so students coming to the gulf will experience this and may end up staying here. The only challenge in my mind is the residency, as our countries do not provide permanent residence due to our naturalization laws. I think that this may change in the future which will make studying and working in the gulf countries something equal if not better than going west.
How do you rate MOOCs(massive open online courses)? Do you think MOOCs are good for students?
Continuing education and adult learners is something that I have insisted upon since I started my consultancy; no one should stop learning, as the changes in technology, science, health, business is happening by the second and one cannot live without complete knowledge of these changes. MOOC or Cursera is never to be evaluated, t is a must and it is necessary, and it is open to everyone on this earth. I am not a person that can say that this piece of information is good, indifferent or bad, I can recommend the courses to students and employees but its upto them to take up the courses. I feel though that it’s a pity that such resources are available for human beings and one will not benefit out of them. nobody can say now that I wish that I studied this or that or the other, it is there, it is free, it is available and it is high quality, the only three things one has to put in is effort, time and perseverance.
Do you think the elite colleges( including Stanford, Harvard and MIT) promoting MOOCs are not only endangering less elite institutions but also undercutting themselves?
No I don’t think so, because knowledge is free and everyone believes this, but when it comes to certifications, then one has to pay for it, as one will be using that knowledge for further gains.
Do you think MOOCs could be disastrous for both students and professors?
I Think MOOC is revolutionary, and its something that should have been done from time memorial, of course prior to the internet revolution the TV could have been used for MOOC, which means we have to have manpower, which was a major inhabitant, or courses will be printed, which again is costly. Having MOOC courses online means that we are allowing the public to benefit “for free” from the knowledge the universities are selling, in the time the public has, which was utilized in watching soap opera. MOOC is a great thing as the parents can be involved with the same courses the son or daughter is taking, which means three for the price of one. Plus its high time that the universities start giving to the public instead of continuously taking.
Do you think a higher education degree should provide ROI (Return on Investment)?
Yes and no. yes because the students need to use that qualification for finding jobs or doing business; no because we all need to be educated.
What are the preferences of the students of UAE regarding with Higher education? Do you think there are still less options in front a student beyond Medicine and Engineering?
Unfortunately we have business, medicine and engineering only, and the focus is on these three items we need to have law, humanities, art and other faculties
How do you compare pursuing a higher education program in a foreign country and do the same in a branch campus of a foreign university in Dubai?
As I mentioned above branch campuses are established for two reasons, to attract students that cannot go overseas for any reason, and to make money. It is a good thing as they will try to replicate the good work happening in the main campus or inter-benefit. One can combat the disadvantages by starting study abroad and exchange programmes. However, to me studying abroad is far better as we gain more from being independent, and seeing how others live.
What is your opinion that the Middle-east countries are still an under-penetrated market as far as higher education is concerned?
To begin with I must emphasise the main benefit of higher education, which is research. When one does research one has to have the ability to say everything and not be apprehended due to political reasons. Education is liberal and so is research, and of course in the middle east if one says his mind one can easily jeopardise his life. I can only give one example here which is the 4 journalists imprisoned in Egypt, they are there because they said what they thought was happening, so if we continue to prevent people from doing research and discussing the results freely, then we cannot have good education.
How do you rate Britain, US, Australia, Canada, India and Pakistan in higher education studies?
Why Pakistan or India? Every country puts a value on higher education as it’s a multi-billion dollar industry, and because of this the west (and some of the southern hemisphere countries like New Zealand and Australia) have emphasised research to make the universities of a high standard, I am not sure about the applicability of this factor in Pakistan or India.
Which are the good programs which can bring a better job in Gulf countries?
Media, Journalism, entrepreneurship, marine biology, hospitality, tourism, and of course the traditional courses such as medicine, engineering, architecture, design, IT etc.
Do you think the rising cost of education will be an impediment factor for a quality higher education?
We all would rather die of hunger than stop our children from gaining a higher education qualification, so the cost is not a factor.