Dr Ahmed Behlhoul Al Falasi
Dr Ahmed Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of Higher Education and Advanced Skills said all institutions should have in place practical remote education solutions, including ‘virtual internship’ systems. Image Credit:

Dubai: Universities in the UAE have been barred from issuing academic warning and dismissing students due to the prevailing extra-ordinary situation in the country in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Ahmad Bin Abdullah Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, Minister of State for Higher Education and Advanced Skills, said that his ministry is working at full capacity to reduce the burden on students during the current coronavirus crisis.

In his statement on Tuesday, Dr Al Falasi said that higher education institutions are committed to exempting students from academic warnings, placing them under monitoring, and dismissing them, in addition to not depriving them of entering their final exams during the current period.

Distance learning

Reiterating the importance of distance learning at this time, he said that all institutions should have in place practical remote education solutions, including ‘virtual internship’ systems. He stressed the importance of interactive communication methods to facilitate the practical aspects of academic programmes, such as laboratory work, training, and discussion of graduation projects.

He highlighted in particular the importance of applying simulation systems to clinical case studies for medical students to enable their clinical evaluations to be conducted remotely.

Academic courses and programmes

Dr Al Falasi indicated that all higher education institutions are committed to delivering their courses’ syllabuses and ensuring that all their key targets are achieved through the use of appropriate tools and mechanisms to facilitate distance learning.

At the same time, he stressed that students have a responsibility to adhere to the rules and regulations of the remote evaluation process, including allowing the use of electronic monitoring tools, such as live streamed video, during examinations.

Courses for Emirati school students

He stressed that coordination will take place to ensure the commitment of universities to offering at least two of the course on their curriculums to Emirati school students in order to prepare them to join higher education institutions in the next academic year.

“The ministry is working continuously with the various institutions of higher education in the country to reach a practical formula through which we can maintain the efficient functioning of the educational system and to ensure we can continue to prepare students during this exceptional time,” he added.

“The difficult situation that the world is currently going through nevertheless carries with it many positives for the higher education sector, the most important of these is that it is enabling us to fully activate the remote learning system and enhance our readiness to ensure the effective functioning of the education system across all universities during emergencies and crises,” he noted.

Positivity

He praised the positive response of institutions, faculties and students during the current situation, stating the importance of harmonising efforts to find solutions to the challenges that are arising. He highlighted that the ministry’s team is continuously monitoring the progress of the education system and appraising its ability to deal promptly with all developments.

Flexible evaluation systems

He said that higher education institutions offer flexibility by committing to grant students the traditional evaluation represented by A, B, C and D grades while preserving their right to accept or decline this evaluation system for their cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA). He said that students are able to decline if they feel have been unable to adapt to the e-learning system, or if they believe that their evaluation does not represent their true academic level.

Dr Al Falasi indicated that the students have the right to choose a ‘pass’ or ‘no pass’ evaluation instead of a grade. If they are awarded a pass for a module, this will not count in their cumulative GPA, and it they are awarded a no pass, they have the right to retake the course without the failure appearing on their transcripts.

“We prioritise the students’ interests by ensuring their adaptation to the remote learning system and the application of the new form of evaluation. We have enough flexibility to review or work on developing any decisions that we see in the interest of students who are always the focus of our efforts, in order to create a new generation qualified with the required knowledge and skills to lead the country in the future,” the minister concluded.