x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

University is holding course for one student

Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi will fly tutors in from France to teach a master's degree course with only one student.

Prof Xavier Galmiche, the university's academic director, expects the course to be more popular next year.
Prof Xavier Galmiche, the university's academic director, expects the course to be more popular next year.

ABU DHABI // A university is flying instructors in from France to teach a master's degree course with only one student. Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi continued with the course in teaching French as a foreign language because officials said they had a duty to the person enrolled. Three tutors are being sent from France for two weeks each during the academic year. Prof Xavier Galmiche, academic director of the Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, said continuing with the master's degree was expensive. The university receives only ?12,500 (Dh58,197) in fees from the one student.

"We wanted to open it for a relatively large number of students. It's expensive when you have only one registered student and we've had to reflect about what to do in this case," he said. "To respect our commitment to this one person, we decided to spend this money. We had to do it. You have to be reliable." The student, an expatriate Arab woman, is not always taught on her own, as she takes some classes for courses with other students.

The university received more than 20 applications, mostly from people in Egypt, and given the level of interest decided to run the course in the 2008-09 academic year. Offers were made to 14 applicants but all but one pulled out when it became clear there would be no scholarships and fees would have to be paid up front. Prof Bernard Franco, a professor of comparative literature responsible for the course, said the university suspected that many of the applicants had applied only to get student visas.

Prof Galmiche said interviews were organised in the home countries of applicants to help weed out frauds. "A lot of people want to exploit a university." Students who win scholarships do not pay fees up front. Other universities also said they check to make sure they are not exploited by people from overseas looking for student visas. Jay Jayatilaka, international marketing manager for the University of Wollongong in Dubai, said the university was "very careful".

"They need to meet admission requirements, they need to pay in full and they need to pay for accommodation. Someone just going for a visa wouldn't go through the process," he said. He said that five or six years ago, people tried to obtain student visas fraudulently, but now the system is much stricter. "We've always been mindful of the fact this could become a possibility, so we've got systems in place so if you want to obtain a student visa, this is what you have to go through." Prof Brian Smart, executive dean of the Heriot-Watt University campus in Dubai, said the school had never had a problem.

"We keep quite close tabs on our people who come here. We tend to look after their passports." He said the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which manages education in Dubai, was "quite strong" on the subject. Paris-Sorbonne Abu Dhabi expects more students to take the master's course in teaching French as a foreign language next year as it is trying to recruit students from the UAE rather than overseas.

The course is aimed at schoolteachers and Prof Galmiche said French schools in Abu Dhabi had shown interest. dbardsley@thenational.ae