DUBAI: Higher education hits a low mark

When Dubai's economy stumbled in December 2009, it heralded a tough time not only for businesses, but the business of higher education too, reports Arabic Knowledge@Wharton. The most public example of the difficulties operating in the sector was the experience of George Mason University, a American higher education pioneer in the United Arab Emirates.

Setting up a satellite campus in Ras Al Khaimah, 100 kilometres from Dubai, it started undergraduate courses in 2006 with fewer than 40 students. Those attending praised its American approach to learning, though the university didn't bring faculty from Virginia to teach there. But George Mason never reached its enrolment targets, managing a class of only 120 undergraduate students three years later. When the university couldn't reach an agreement on funding with the local government, it decided to shutter its operation.

George Mason's failure hasn't deterred others from establishing campuses, but it serves as fair warning of the over-saturated nature of higher education in the Arabian Gulf: according to a recent study of higher education in the UAE by The British Council, there are just over 91,000 college-level students in the UAE, but nearly 100 colleges and universities in the country vying for their tuition, including 48 international higher education institutions.
Full report on the Arabic Knowledge@Wharton site