x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Michigan State hopes Iranian ties will help Dubai enrolment

The first American university to open a branch campus in Dubai hopes to attract young Iranians to boost enrolment.

Dr Lou Anna Simon, the president of Michigan State University, at the official opening of the school's campus in Dubai.
Dr Lou Anna Simon, the president of Michigan State University, at the official opening of the school's campus in Dubai.

DUBAI // The first American university to open a branch campus in Dubai hopes to attract young Iranians to boost enrolment. The president of Michigan State University (MSU), Dr Lou Anna Simon, said the large number of Iranians who have studied at the university in the US could help recruit students. An opening ceremony was held this month at the university's campus in Dubai International Academic City (Diac), where 41 undergraduate and 10 postgraduate students are enrolled.

Dr Simon said the university was popular with international students in the US, a student-body mix the Dubai branch should be able to emulate. Acting as "a magnet" to students from a variety of countries was an important component of MSU's presence in Dubai, she said. "In the 1970s we had a fair number of students from Iran so we have a network of alumni in Iran who I think we'll tap," she said. "We also have a strong relationship with Turkish universities and with universities in Kazakhstan. We will be able to attract these students as well. I hope this will be a very international campus."

Dr Simon said MSU Dubai expected to recruit 160 to 180 more students next year. Already more than 100 applications have been received for next autumn. First-year recruitment was difficult because until shortly before the start of term, the university did not have a campus building. The absence of student housing was also an issue; more will have to be built for the campus to succeed. "That was part of the original plan of Diac," Dr Simon said. "It's not unusual for growth to outpace infrastructure. It's a phenomenon across the region and that's what's happened here. Once the student housing and faculty housing comes up, there will be stability and there will be more growth."

MSU Dubai students living in university accommodation have been housed outside Diac. As part of MSU academic life, students enrolled in the Dubai school can spend time at MSU's main campus in East Lansing, Michigan. Students in East Lansing will be offered the chance to take courses in Dubai. "This will bring a different kind of texture to the educational experience," she said. MSU was founded in 1855 and has about 46,000 students and nearly 5,000 faculty and academic staff.

Among the other American colleges to open branch campuses in the UAE are George Mason University in Ras al Khaimah and the New York Institute of Technology in Abu Dhabi. @Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae