Undergraduate programmes are no longer offered at Michigan State University's Dubai campus. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Michigan State University Dubai (MSUD) has seemingly fulfilled its promise to look after its students affected by closure of the university's undergraduate programmes, announced in early July.

Dr Harold Sollenberger, Acting Interim Director of MSUD, said most of the 85 undergraduate students enrolled at MSUD and the dozen that had made deposits for the coming academic year, have transferred to the main campus in East Lansing. The closure of its undergraduate programmes has left MSUD offering only a Masters programme in Labour and Industrial Relations.

"A large number of students are going to the US," said Sollenberger. "The numbers for students enrolled at MSUD last year and the admitted students who will accept our offer to transfer to East Lansing, is in the mid-40s, and they will go this fall."

Number crunching

Sollenberger said at least another 10 students will get to East Lansing in the spring, but in the meantime will be taking online courses with the university.

He added that just above 20 students will continue their studies in the UAE by transferring to other American and international universities in Dubai.

Dr Lance De Masi, President of the American University in Dubai (AUD) confirmed that five MSUD transfer students have enquired about joining AUD for the coming academic year. "Our tuition fees are slightly higher than MSUD's, so to facilitate the transfer we've offered students scholarships with a 50 per cent tuition fee reduction in their first year," said De Masi.

Ali Shuhaimy, Vice Chancellor of Enrolment Management at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) said the institution has received over 20 student enquiries about MSUD transfers. "We've admitted six students so far and rejected two who didn't meet our admissions requirements," he said.

Sollenberger said the closure occurred due to a fundamental lack of sufficient students. "I have been personally working very hard since the announcement to help the students and we've been in direct contact with about 70 of the 85 affected students by telephone or e-mail," he said.

Jeffrey Riedinger, Dean of International Studies Programmes, assured MSUD students, upon announcement of the programme closures, that those who transferred to the home campus would still be charged reduced MSUD fees. Students were also promised a round trip air fare for each academic year along with housing provisions.

Of the seven faculty members let go due to the closure, all have been placed said Sollenberger, mainly with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Dubai's Silicon Oasis. "Some [faculty members] chose to leave the country and do other things but former faculty members which stayed have all been placed," said Sollenberger.

However, a former faculty member feels the students were accommodated more than the staff but holds no hard feelings. "They really accommodated students more than the faculty with all they offered them," said Dr Boutheina Tlili, former MSUD faculty member and Associate professor of engineering at RIT.

"They've tried to take care of everybody up until now, so it's not the case that MSUD closed and neglected everybody," said Tlili. "I'm not mad that I didn't have a job for a while, I'm just sad that MSUD didn't make it, because the reason I joined initially was because I studied at MSU," she added.


Tamara Abdul Hadi, 20, who was a business student at MSUD and has now successfully transferred to AUS to study finance, said rumours of closure had been circulating on campus since April 2010, sparked by MSUD's former Dean Brendan Mullen's family move back to the East Lansing campus.

"Rumours had been circulating on BlackBerry Messenger since April, but we [the students] officially found out the morning the article ran in the papers," said Abdul Hadi. "At the time senior administration people assured us that they wouldn't leave us stranded and even the Dean reassured us at an award ceremony that MSUD wasn't closing down," she added. "So when it actually happened I felt like they'd cheated all of us and snuck out, How could they know for all that time and not tell us?"

"We [staff and faculty members] didn't hear any rumours," said Tlili. "Although, an e-mail was sent to us before it came out in the media," she added. Sollenberger said there were rumours circulating but there was no truth to them, "In all honesty I knew of no decision, prior to a day or two, before the public announcement that we were going to close."