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UK branch campuses in Gulf are not good always

Dubai, (UAE): Many of the British universitie’ branch campuses in the UAE are not up to mark, says the Quality Assurance Agency(QAA), education regulator in the UK. The agency reveals this shocking face in a report published recently.

The report said that only two British Universities’ branch campuses in UAE are keeping the proper standard which the same UK Universities maintains at Britain. The report said only Heriot-Watt and Middlesex University “are readily recognisable as branch campuses in including the range of facilities a student would expect of a campus in the UK, even if in some areas such facilities are provided at a lower level”. So a branch campus should match the supportive environment and range of facilities offered to students based in the home university.

The reports warn against the misleading the students into believing campus life would be similar to that in the UK. From the survey, the agency found out the fact that many other institutions offer just one course and rent small spaces in other buildings.

Heriot-Watt has about 3,500 students and Middlesex about 2,600 and both offer many courses.The QAA states a campus “must run like one with the full range of supports including pastoral, careers and social facilities. Institutions should consider the expectations they are raising in promising a global campus experience.”

Dr Warren Fox, head of higher education at Dubai’s regulator, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KDHA), said its team did not differentiate between institutions such as London Business School, which offers just one part-time MBA course, and universities such Heriot-Watt Dubai.

The latter has a stand-alone campus and courses ranging from fashion design to engineering, bachelor degrees and PhDs.

Heriot-Watt University, based in Edinburgh, is the only British university to have its own campus in Dubai International Academic City.It includes accommodation, sports facilities, restaurants and laboratories. Prof Ammar Kaka, head of campus said student experience was a priority.

The UK has 10 institutions in Dubai, which has the world’s largest concentration of foreign branch campuses – 26.The KHDA quality assurance team evaluates degrees at branch campuses every year to ensure they meet standards of the home campus.

Dr Lois Smith, head of campus at Middlesex University, one of the institutions rated most highly in the report, said she was pleased.

But many UK Universities’ branch campuses are operating with a minimum structure in UAE. Take the example of the Dubai branch of the UK’s Strathclyde Business School. It offers just one course to students and operates out of rented offices. It is little more than an administrative outpost of a foreign institution. This kind of compression of quality is one of the negative but inevitable consequences of a rapidly developing market.

It is important that such campuses are properly regulated, particularly those institutions operating in free zones. This kind of loophole will inevitably create confusion among students about local degree recognition and that, in turn, is bad for the entire education sector.

Global branch campuses play a significant role in developing education in this country by helping to meet rising demand, bringing certified quality programmes and offering international degrees recognised around the world. Better regulation would help students to ensure that they are getting proper value for their education.

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