x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Indian University of Pune RAK campus to shut

Problem shared with other institutions based there, but some are using the peace and quiet to market remote location to parents

RAS AL KHAIMAH // The Indian University of Pune's Ras al Khaimah campus has frozen admissions after failing to attract enough students.

It says the problem has been its location - as soon as students realise the campus is in RAK, they lose interest. The university now plans to relocate to Dubai or the capital.

Neither aggressive marketing nor Pune's reputation as one of India's best universities has helped, according to Dragana Symons, the administration manager from Edulink, the university's local partner.

"There is no student life here," she said. "For the young, there's just not enough on offer. You need to be located near to where students live."

Moving will not be straightforward. Because it is in RAK's free zone, Pune does not currently have to be accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, as it would anywhere else in the country.

Getting that accreditation, said Ms Symons, was now its priority. In the meantime, the courses of its 34 MBA and executive MBA students would not be affected.

Pune is not the first RAK university to be underwhelmed by applicants. George Mason University from the US opened a branch campus in RAK in 2006, but pulled out three years later. That campus now belongs to the American University of RAK (Aurak).

Aurak, in turn, has struggled. "The young students are more used to places like Dubai and feel that RAK is a deserted city," said its president, Shaukat Mirza.

Mr Mirza is pitching RAK's peace and quiet to parents, hoping to persuade them that the lack of distractions will help their children focus on their studies.

That seems to be paying off. Mr Mirza said he was "encouraged" by this year's intake of 54, the most since the campus launched five years ago.

"It doesn't sound like a large number but for us, it was," he said. "When I took over the university in June, we had 72 cumulative students from the past four years, so this number for us is significant."

Elsewhere, there has been great demand for Indian institutions. Manipal University in Dubai International Academic City is one of the emirate's biggest campuses, with more than 1,600 students.

Bits, Pilani - Dubai, a branch of its Indian counterpart, also has about 1,700 students.

The travails of RAK campuses have not put others off, though. Emirates MCC University announced plans last month for a tourism college in RAK that will offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

The university's chairman, Tissan Thachankary, is expecting high demand for its low-cost courses. RAK's lower rent and other costs meant it could offer degrees for half as much as its rivals, he said.

"We're filing a gap in the market, serving a part of the community who may otherwise have been excluded [from] education."

mswan@thenational.ae