x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 February 2018

Omani students banned from two UAE universities

The ministry suspended Omanis from signing up for courses at the Ajman University of Science and Technology (AUST) and the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai, starting from the next academic year.

Ajman University of Science and Technology has banned Omani students from enrolling. Duncan Chard for the National
Ajman University of Science and Technology has banned Omani students from enrolling. Duncan Chard for the National

DUBAI // Students from Oman have been barred from enrolling at two UAE higher education institutions, according to a statement from Oman’s ministry of higher education.

The ministry suspended Omanis from signing up for courses at the Ajman University of Science and Technology (AUST) and the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai, starting from the next academic year.

The decision was made after a study carried out by Oman’s Committee on Qualifications for Institutions [CQI] showed a low success rate for graduates when it came to job interviews.

Said Amir Al Rahbi, the director of the CQI, said the ministry acted after taking the opinion of employers, reported the Times of Oman.

A statement from Oman’s ministry said that “in view of observations received by the ministry from recruiters about the level of certain institutions, Ajman University and all its branches, as well as the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies were removed from the list of recommended educational institutions in the UAE.”

It went on to say that “Omani students are no longer allowed to study at either institution as of the beginning of the academic year 2015-2016. Educational qualifications and degrees issued by these two institutions will no longer be accredited after the issuance of the present decision.”

However, Omani students currently enrolled at both institutions will receive their qualifications.

In a statement, AUST confirmed it had received a letter from the cultural attaché at the embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Abu Dhabi informing it of the decision. It stated the reason was down to “the pressure on the labour market in the Sultanate ... and not the university’s commitment to quality standards”.

However, AUST questioned if it was enough to stop the enrolment of Omani students as around 10,000 have graduated from AUST since 1990 and 749 are still enrolled.

“We question the nature of the extensive studies which the director of Oman’s Committee on Qualifications for Institutions adopted in order to assess the university’s educational outcomes, and we question the suitability of these studies or reports with the academic standards of recognition used internationally in evaluation,” a statement from the university said.

“We emphasise that the ministry of higher education of Oman did not communicate with Ajman University directly or through other official channels to provide the data relied upon to make a decision at this level.”

Osama Saeed Salman, deputy chairman of Ajman University, initially said he was unsure if the statement from the Omani ministry, which had been circulating on social media on Thursday, was genuine.

However, using his Twitter account, he later said that AUST had received formal notice of the ban and the reasons for it.

Dean Hoke, co-founder of consultancy Edu Alliance, said he was surprised by the news as AUST and the College of Islamic and Arabic Studies in Dubai are “accredited by the UAE’s CAA [Commission for Academic Accreditation] which means at least the UAE Government believes there is sufficient quality”.

Dr Natasha Ridge, head of research at the Al Qasimi Foundation in Ras Al Khaimah, said the move by Oman points to the need for improved regulations of universities “so that we can comply with international standards and continue to attract students from overseas”.

“We need greater consistency across the GCC to allow students to move more freely between countries,” said Dr Ridge.

Ajman University was founded in 1988. A campus in Fujairah opened in 2000.

Dubai’s College of Islamic and Arabic Studies was established in 1986 and is based in Al Karama. It runs courses for foreign students, including non-Muslims, in Arabic, French and English.

No one from the college was available to comment.

salamir@thenational.ae

Additional reporting by Melanie Swan