By Sarwat Nasser for Khaleej Times
All universities in the UAE will soon receive a quality rating as part of the country's new higher education strategy.
The rating will determine the standard of the university. It will be similar to how schools in Dubai are rated; however, higher education institutions' rating will be in numbers. Ratings will also be applied to all higher academic, research and applied institutions.
The new initiatives are all part of the UAE's National Higher Education Strategy that was announced in September. In total, there are four pillars that are part of the strategy, including quality (classification initiative), relevance, innovation and efficiency.
The classification initiative is just one of the pillars of the national strategy, as the efficiency initiative will help reduce the number of university dropouts.
The current dropout rate at UAE federal educational institutions is 14 per cent, according to Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills.
"Globally, the dropout rate is 4 to 10 per cent. In the UAE, in federal institutions, it's 14 per cent. In the overall sector, it's less than that. So, we don't have a huge rate, but it is higher than the average," he said.
"What we want to do now is understand why that is happening: is it because the students have to change or because they don't have enough support? All of those can be answered by looking at historical records, which will be able to predict how the situation can be addressed and resolved."
The classification system will help universities determine a certain standard they have to reach as per the ministry's requirements.
"The first and foremost is to look at their quality. As per our requirements, universities will know what will be required to be labelled as 1, 2, or 3. This will help the universities understand that they're not only required to operate under a licence, but also the visibility of the quality that is expected by the ministry," Al Falasi said.
It also aims to ensure the promotion of a student-centric system that produces more employable graduates by broadening the academic and vocational pathways relevant to the existing labour market needs.
This pillar will also ensure university students are being provided enough internship opportunities and the university curriculums are meeting the requirements of the current job market.
Through the innovation pillar, the ministry will ensure government and private funding to the "most promising" areas through competitive mechanisms - helping produce a more knowledge-based economy. One of the main missions of this pillar will be to increase the number of PhD graduates in the country threefold.
Currently, PhDs are only 840 of total graduate students (12,837) in all of UAE.
"The Higher Education strategy will be achieved and implemented over several phases, with an initial ramp up in the short-term. We want to align with our partners and increase collaborations with the private sector. In the long run, we will drive economic development with a focus on strengthening university programmes and align specialisations and research studies with the demands of the job market," Al Falasi said.
Higher education in the UAE
- The first university in the UAE, United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), was established in 1976 in Al Ain by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Within the first decade, the number of enrolled students increased from 502 students to 15,000.
- Today, less than 50 years later, the UAE has over 100 higher education institutions, hosting approximately 140,000 students.
- In 2016, the UAE government brought together the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research as one entity to oversee the entire education sector.
- The ministry supervises all levels of learning and tracks students across the entirety of their educational journey, from early education all the way to higher education.
- Top 500 QS, a global ranking system for institutes of higher education, has ranked the UAEU, AUS, and Khalifa University, in recognition of the UAE's global educational standards.
Number of higher education institutions
5 federal institutions:
- United Arab Emirates University
- Higher Colleges of Technology
- Zayed University
- National Defense College
- Emirates Diplomatic Academy
69 local government and private institutions, including:
- Khalifa University of Science and Technology
- Sharjah University
- Mohammed Bin Rashid Medical and Health Science University
10 branch campuses, including leading global institutions such as:
- Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi
- New York University Abu Dhabi
- INSEAD - Abu Dhabi
- New York Institute of Technology - Abu Dhabi
- Mohamed V University - Abu Dhabi
- Strathclyde Business School - UAE
Four pillars of higher education strategy
- Quality (classification)