Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 November 2019

Dubai students left in limbo after row between university campuses

Students of an international university branch campus in Dubai graduated last year but are still waiting to receive their diplomas

Students of Modul University in Dubai are yet to receive their diplomas, nine months after graduating, due to a standoff with the parent campus in Vienna. Pawan Singh / The National
Students of Modul University in Dubai are yet to receive their diplomas, nine months after graduating, due to a standoff with the parent campus in Vienna. Pawan Singh / The National

Students of a branch campus in Dubai have been left in limbo after the parent university in Europe severed ties with it, leaving them without diplomas for degrees they have completed.

Students of Modul University Dubai, who graduated nine months ago, said they have been unable to find jobs or pursue graduate studies because the main campus in Vienna, Austria, has withheld their diplomas.

Modul University Vienna said it terminated its co-operation agreement with the Dubai branch in October last year, citing academic breaches and refusal of the UAE institution to provide them with student admission records.

The UAE branch has denied the claims, saying an independent expert at a Dubai court deemed them invalid.

Our diplomas have been held hostage.

GL, a student of Modul University Dubai

Modul University Dubai opened in 2016 and has about 300 students from 70 nations. The university had its first set of 28 graduates last year.

Modul University Vienna told students in Dubai they may continue their studies online or move to the Austria campus but will need to pay higher fees and will be unable to reclaim their scholarships. Students are petitioning the parent campus to complete their studies in the UAE. Their online petition has about 1,200 signatures, including some from students at the Vienna campus.

GL, an American student, who preferred not to be named, completed his bachelor’s ­degree in International Management at the Dubai campus last year.

“Our diplomas have been held hostage ever since,” he said.

GL, 23, said the Vienna campus asked him to sign a new study contract or risk not receiving his diploma.

The student has paid more than Dh100,000 for three years of study and has now been told he must partially redo his degree either online or in Europe.

Master’s students at the Dubai campus received their diplomas several months after graduating.

Dr Joerg Finsinger, academic head at Modul University Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Dr Joerg Finsinger, academic head at Modul University Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

GL said he wants to apply for a master’s degree but cannot do so until he receives his diploma.

“I have had an interviewer laugh at me and say ‘how come you graduated but you do not have a diploma nine months after you graduated?’

Most free zones here do not take transcripts, as they need the actual diploma stating we are graduates.

“The reason we signed up to Modul Dubai is that we wanted an Austrian education without going to Austria. That’s the whole point of an extended campus.

“To ask a student to move to an entirely new environment and pay an exorbitant fees is ridiculous,” he said.

KM, a Lebanese student in third year, has also been given the option to either go to Vienna or complete courses online.

“Our lives are here and our families are here and I can’t just leave and transfer,” the student said.

“We have to pay fees in Vienna which are much higher. Also, we lose our scholarships and many of us are on scholarships.

“We want Modul University in Vienna to come to Dubai and talk to the students. Also, we want the option to finish our studies in Dubai, not online or in Vienna.”

Dr Joerg Finsinger, academic head at Modul University Dubai, claims the Vienna campus dishonoured its obligations and breached the guarantees it gave to the students and Knowledge and Human Development Authority, regulator for Dubai’s private education sector.

“They have raised fictitious reasons for terminating the co-operation agreement based on alleged academic breaches which have been denounced entirely by an independent expert nominated by the Dubai Courts," Dr Finsinger said.

“Students must be given the opportunity to finish their studies in Dubai as was guaranteed to them at the time of admissions and without suffering any undue disadvantage.

"The current teach-out proposals made by Modul University Vienna are not only impracticable, but they are also unlawful and in direct breach of the agreements and the students’ rights."

Modul University Dubai has said it is prepared to offer a local teach-out in the emirate.

The Modul University Board in Vienna said it severed ties with the Dubai campus because it failed to provide them with students’ admission and academic records, and contact information, which hindered its ability to fulfil its part of the agreement.

"Due to the fact that several attempts from our side failed to solve these and other issues with the Dubai management, our side was compelled to terminate the co-operation agreement in October 2018," a statement from the university read.

Students contacted KHDA in April to find a solution.

They said the regulator suggested students contact the campuses themselves and resolve the issue internally.

A KHDA representative told The National: “Students enrolled at Modul University Dubai are being offered multiple pathways to complete their programme as part of a teach-out plan currently under way.

“During this period, all enrolled students will be given an opportunity to complete their programme and graduate with accredited qualifications,” he said.

The spokesperson said the home campus in Vienna is working directly with graduating students to resolve the issue.

Updated: July 11, 2019 10:10 PM

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