Dubai: The time is ripe for the government to recognise institutions that are not accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said academics from Free Zone universities in Dubai.
The higher education stakeholders and business officials were speaking at Dubai International Academic City's first Education Forum yesterday. They debated the topic ‘Is Dubai an Education Hub?'
Chaired by Gulf News Editor-at-Large Francis Matthew, the panelists included Professor Lawrence Loh, Vice-President for Academic Affairs at Al Ghurair University, Dr B. Ramjee, Director of Manipal University Dubai, and Anna Kizirian, Educational Consultant/Partner of Proactive Management Consultancy.
"Accreditation is something supported by federal government authorities, which, as Free Zones, we are not required to have. The fact that we don't have accreditation poses a stigma to these institutions," said Ramjee.
As the MoHSR's Commission for Academic Accreditation does not recognise the Free Zone universities, it poses a disadvantage "because we cannot attract UAE nationals who would want to work in the government sector", he said.
The UAE government departments do not accept graduates with degrees from non CAA accredited institutions.
Another problem is that students cannot transfer credits or pursue master's or PhD programmes with accredited ones in the UAE or universities abroad, said Ramjee and education counsellors.
"You can have a restriction on quality which we would be glad to accept, but blanket mandates on institutions don't augur well for the future," he said.
He said reputable branch campuses have gone through stringent accreditation processes.
Suad Al Halwachi, managing director of education counselling company Education Zone, said the main problem she faced was students graduating with non CAA accredited degrees and international universities not recognising them.
Panelists Kizirian and Hussam called for universities to be internationally accredited by recognised agencies.
Hussam said it was more beneficial to have accreditation from an international body.
"Let's not forget that it's trial and error — we have started only seven years ago and we are learning from our mistakes," said Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV).
DIAC was following the Boston higher education model which Kazim said was "ideal for us" as Boston had several multi-tiered institutions. "We are not Qatar — we are not serving only two per cent of the student body," Kazim said.