Image Credit: Gulf News archives

One of the great success stories over the past four decades has been the remarkable number of universities that have been attracted to the UAE because of its commitment to higher learning and research. And at the same time, our national universities have grown in stature, attracting the brightest minds and researchers, and providing the highest standard of learning to students.

The halls of academia are indeed to be cherished, and the research, learning, education and degrees that they provide are a stepping stone to career goals, personal achievement and establishing the firm foundations for career trajectories that are unlimited. But there is an onerous burden placed on those responsible for regulating the burgeoning field, ensuring that the highest standards of accreditation and the delivery of educational standards is consistent and maintained across the board.

Should those responsible for this sector fail, they will be undermining the entire credibility of the system, would be providing a disservice to the tens of thousands of students attending now and prospective ones for the future, would be endorsing a less than wholehearted effort by lecturers, academics and researchers, and would be failing in their duty to the government to improve and consistently develop the third-level sector.

But that is indeed far from the case, and after an announcement from the Ministry of Education on Monday that all universities here will be evaluated on a set of quality-based metrics beginning in September, we can rest assured knowing that the standards, transparency, consistency and effectiveness of the system will be improved using key performance indicators and rigorous ongoing assessments. It’s a good day’s work and the new metrics go a long way in protecting and developing the critical third-level learning sector, and safeguarding the hard-won reputation of the individual institutions.

The new system means that all higher education institutions in the UAE will have to follow tough accreditation and licensing standards in line with the National Strategy for Higher Education, and those who are deemed to be high quality will be rewarded with several competitive advantages, including a seven-year interval between licensing and accreditation reviews; the opportunity to have multiple programmes evaluated at the same time; smaller evaluation teams for short evaluation visits; and priority in introducing new programmes at a cost-effective rate. Conversely, those institutions that fail to make the grade, will be placed on probation, face more stringent tests more often and face heavy sanctions.

The introduction of this system is timely and provides transparency and consistency across the board. It’s a good day for students, whose degrees and diplomas are protected, and for academics and administrators, who know now where the bar is set.