Dubai universities not offering enough courses in specialist subjects, say experts
DUBAI // The highest concentration of foreign university branch campuses in the world can be found in Dubai with 27 across the emirate, but institutions do not offer enough courses in specialist subjects such as health and science, experts say.
Universities have been focused on providing business and IT related subjects, which account for about 70 per cent of courses offered. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the emirate’s education regulator, is trying to gear new courses and institutions towards courses that meet the needs of the economy.
Dr Warren Fox, head of higher education at the KHDA, said “areas such as science, health, and further management options” are up for consideration, with applicants urged to study those criteria.
Health care management is one such course which service providers say is needed.
“There are very limited courses in health care management,” said Alisha Moopen, chief executive of Aster Healthcare and Medcare. “There are some small courses being run but they’re not very structured, so we end up sending a lot of our staff abroad for executive education because it’s hard to find options here.”
Manchester Business School, part of the University of Manchester in the UK, recently received approval for a new master of science in health care in September as the school expands to develop into a multi disciplinary set-up.
“Healthcare is top of the agenda across the region and so healthcare leadership at the post graduate and executive education level will be a major focus for us,” said Prof Colin Bailey, deputy president and deputy vice chancellor at the University of Manchester.
Having been in the UAE since 2006 as a business school and partner university of the British University in Dubai, MBS has had more than 2,000 MBA students through its doors. Prof Bailey said the expansion is timely and the new focus is to be on areas such as energy, logistics, healthcare, banking and finance.
Dr Jason Lane, an international expert on branch campuses who is based at the University of Albany, part of the State University of New York, said such expansion and the continued arrival of more campuses signals continued demand.
“Dubai is still seen as a strong player and definitely has the largest concentration of international branch campuses (IBCs) in a single city and the highest proportion of IBCs relative to the total number of higher education institutions in the emirate. I don’t know if any other place where foreign education is such a major player relative to domestic providers.”
There are 247 IBCs in operation around the world and at least another 20 in development.
British and American education continues to be popular, he said.
“I would say that the UK and the US have the strongest global brands in terms of higher education and demand for a US and UK education remain high. Both countries have recently experienced major electoral shifts that could make studying in country more difficult and less desirable to international students. This may result in even greater demand for IBC education as students want the foreign degree, but are not able to get it by studying in the home country.”
For health care, Ms Moopen said a strategy must be developed at both the clinical and non-clinical levels, not least at post graduate level study, to understand market demands but also to understand student needs.
“It’s fair to say that the medical sector is growing and we will need to keep importing talent for the foreseeable future,” she said.