x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sorbonne sees capital growth

Officials say enrolment at the French institution's Abu Dhabi branch is growing.

ABU DHABI // Touching on recent questions about whether French-language higher education outside the country is viable, a senior Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi official says growing enrolment at the institution shows that it is. Dr Jean-Pierre Machelon, dean at the Université Paris Descartes, which runs the law and economics programmes at the branch of the Sorbonne here, described the popularity of some courses as "spectacular".

In total, the Sorbonne has about 400 students in Abu Dhabi, some of whom are taking French-language courses before starting undergraduate degrees. When the university opened in 2006, there were 165 students, about half of whom were studying French. There are 45 students taking undergraduate law courses through the Université Paris Descartes, 20 studying law at master's degree level, and 31 studying for a bachelor's degree in economics, which launched as a subject last year.

The university's new campus on Al Reem Island is scheduled to open this year. The first class is expected to graduate about the same time as the new campus opens. Other indicators that the university is thriving, Dr Machelon said, were the range of other projects it had launched, among them the Open Sorbonne, which offers lectures to non-students. Courses offered include the history of western art and the history and politics of Gulf countries.

Last year, Prof Xavier Galmiche, academic director of the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, said the institution was a test case for the internationalisation of French higher education and that other universities in France were watching its progress closely. Most overseas branch campuses have been opened by universities from English-speaking countries, and those from other nations, such as the German University of Technology in Oman, have nevertheless tended to use English as the language of instruction.

Dr Machelon, speaking during a recent visit to the UAE capital, said students studying in French benefited from a "diversified cultural approach". "This is appropriate, because the international community is multipolar," he said. "The use of one of the languages which is not one of the most dominant languages is a good thing." Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi is financed by the Abu Dhabi emirate, which also is paying for New York University's campus in the capital.

@Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae