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UConn, Dubai developing partnership for campus in Middle East

by David Bauman - December 11, 2006

The University of Connecticut and the Emirate of Dubai are expected to sign an agreement soon to work out details of an educational partnership that would establish a UConn campus in Dubai.

Dubai is the most populous and second largest of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates on the Arabian Gulf. Its location makes it a natural regional hub for outreach to Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The proposed partnership would expand the opportunities for research collaboration, study abroad, and internships available to UConn and other U.S. students.

As part of the Emirate of Dubai's efforts to modernize and expand its economy, its government is taking steps to reform and upgrade the nation's educational system.

It hopes to position Dubai's universities as "schools of choice" in the region at large. UConn was invited by Dubai's Education Council to be a partner in helping develop a competitive higher education program.

Under a final planning agreement that is expected to be signed by UConn and Dubai officials soon, the partners will work out a detailed plan for creating "UConn-Dubai."

The plan would identify a number of undergraduate and master's degree programs in fields consistent with labor force needs in Dubai, the larger region, and business enterprises in the Gulf, including several with an important presence in Connecticut.

"The University of Connecticut is excited about the prospect of extending its international presence to this important region of the world," says University President Philip E. Austin.

"This development can significantly advance our strategic priority of internationalizing the University, and expand our capacity for teaching and scholarship while simultaneously advancing our state's economic interests."

Austin says that the Dubai government's willingness to assume full financial responsibility ensures that the undertaking will be at no cost to the University or Connecticut taxpayers.

The U.S. government strongly supports governments in the region working to build a more peaceful and prosperous Middle East.

Under the U.S. State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative, funding goes directly to partners such as universities to improve the quality and expand access to higher education for all people, especially girls and women.

UConn's Office of International Affairs has already received two Middle East Partnership Initiative grants in collaboration with Egyptian universities.

The UConn-Dubai partnership would become a key component of the University's increasing international focus. Armenia, Brazil, Central America, Chile, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, and the U.K. are among the diverse countries in which UConn already has academic collaborations.

The UConn-Dubai partnership would be the first of these to offer a full, four-year undergraduate degree program.

The final decision to establish a UConn campus in Dubai is contingent upon approval by the University's Board of Trustees and certain Connecticut state government agencies. The final planning phase would include:

  • a comprehensive industry and student needs assessment study;
  • final business, marketing, and recruitment plans;
  • development of a final implementation agreement;
  • development of custom-designed curricula for undergraduate and master's degree programs;
  • development of a master plan for the UConn-Dubai campus.

"Several American universities have established branch campuses in the Arabian Gulf, and the University of Connecticut is honored to have been be invited by the government of Dubai to impact the futures of men and women throughout the Gulf region," says Provost Peter J. Nicholls, whose office will coordinate the final planning process.

"The trend among U.S. research-intensive universities, the peer class to which UConn belongs, is towards globalization of curriculum and research," he says.

"Establishing a campus in Dubai presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to expand our international presence and provide world-class education to students in the Middle East. Our intent will be to have the students in Dubai taught by faculty members who possess the same qualifications as the faculty who teach here in Connecticut, with the same expectations of student achievement and opportunities for students who graduate from our program."

Four of UConn's schools and colleges are participating in the current planning phase of the proposed partnership with Dubai:

  • The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is developing curricula for general education courses,   prerequisite courses for degree programs in education, business, and engineering, and courses for selected arts and sciences undergraduate majors.
  • The Neag School of Education, which has highly regarded teacher education and educational administration programs, will develop ways to improve the preparation of elementary and secondary teachers for Dubai's national school system.
  • The School of Business will develop undergraduate and master's level courses, with curricula - based on its programs - that incorporate experiential learning, online learning, and globalization.
  • The School of Engineering's computer science and engineering and electrical and computing engineering departments will develop information technology, computer science, telecommunications, and environmental science and engineering programs for the Dubai initiative.

Under the agreement being developed for UConn-Dubai, neither UConn nor the State of Connecticut will make any financial investment in the branch campus.

The Emirate of Dubai will guarantee full funding of all activities for up to 10 years. The Dubai government would also fund all faculty salaries in Dubai.

The programs at UConn-Dubai would have admission standards and curricula almost identical to those at UConn.

In addition, UConn would exercise full academic control over the hiring of faculty and staff, curriculum, and the treatment of students to ensure nondiscrimination in race, religion, and gender.

Construction, maintenance, and operational costs for the campus would be provided by the Dubai government's Education Council.

"The University's faculty are extremely enthusiastic about this tremendous opportunity to venture into this part of the world and advance learning," says Reda Ammar, head of the computer science and engineering department and director of the final planning project.

"We are also excited by the opportunity to move UConn toward globalization, and help address the higher education needs of not only Dubai nationals but also of U.S. citizens living in this area and countries in the larger region," adds Ammar.

"It will be a valuable and exciting opportunity for cultural exchange among students and faculty."

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