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International Branch Campuses, Free Zones, and Quality Assurance: Policy Issues for Dubai and the...

Published on: August 2010​
Genre: Dubai Model​ Category: Policy Brief/ Policy Note​

International branch campuses (IBCs) have a significant presence in Dubai’s higher education sector, yet the role of these institutions is not yet fully understood. Moreover, the evolution of the roles of IBCs in Dubai may be strongly influenced by public policy designs. This brief defines three key issues influencing the development of the education sector and relevant public policy. First, in most importing nations, IBCs account for only a small proportion of the total number of postsecondary educational institutions, and most countries already have well established public and private higher education sectors. In Dubai, however, the private higher education sector has developed rapidly and the number of IBCs is nearly half of the total number of education institutions licensed to operate in the Emirate. Second, foreign education providers engage in a variety of capacity-building roles in Dubai, ranging from providing access to expatriates excluded from the public system to signaling the increasing modernity of the Emirate to the world. Consideration should be given to how future public policy decisions may affect these roles. Third, the use of free zones to facilitate the importation of foreign education providers has resulted in dual quality assurance mechanisms at the federal and local levels, as well as a lack of coordination throughout the sector. This has created an environment where there is significant duplication of degree offerings, confusion over regulation, and concern about the quality of some programs. While such constraints are common in rapidly developing educational systems, left unaddressed they can challenge the effective contribution of the entire sector to the development of the Emirate and the nation, as well as the long term sustainability of each institution. This brief provides an overview of key public policy issues and presents a set of questions to help frame the ongoing conversation.

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