x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

University cuts jobs

The American University of Sharjah says it will reduce its non-academic workforce because of "uncertain conditions" in the economy.

The American University of Sharjah said it will reduce its non-academic workforce by five per cent. Up to 25 jobs could be lost at the university from its staff of 525 non-academic employees, although officials also plan a slight increase in academic staff numbers and are looking to attract more postgraduate students. Dr Peter Heath, who took over as chancellor last year, said the cutback in non-academic staff had been decided by the university's board of trustees as a result of the "uncertain conditions" in the economy.

He said at least half of the reductions would come from not hiring people for currently unfilled positions, although there will be redundancies. The number of academic staff, currently 356, is likely to grow to about 360 and the university is increasing spending on research, growing its financial aid scheme for students by 26 per cent and planning to invest more in study abroad programmes. "The reorganisation has to take place within the context of a staff that's slightly smaller," Dr Heath said.

The review process deciding which non-academic positions will be shed is likely to be completed in about six weeks. While last year Dr Heath said the university aimed to increase the student body by about 20 per cent, the institution has now decided to keep undergraduate numbers stable and will only increase postgraduate enrolment. Currently there are about 5,000 students taking undergraduate degrees and English-language courses and about 200 postgraduates.

"We're holding the undergraduate numbers. If we increased them we would reduce academic quality," Dr Heath said. AUS was founded in 1997 by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of Sharjah, and is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in the US. It offers bachelor's degrees in subjects such as English language and literature, computer engineering, interior design, finance and economics. Master's degrees are taught in areas including public administration and urban planning.

About one fifth of students are UAE nationals, with other heavily represented nationalities including Jordan, Syria, Pakistan and Iran. dbardsley@thenational.ae