What are the current trends with respect to local students attending western-based curricula universities here in Dubai as opposed to going abroad?
DE MASI: There has historically been a flux out of the country to study. There certainly is still a certain amount of that going on today. Since the tertiary educational sector began developing into high gear in the last 15 years, more and more locals and expatriates whose families are based here are more and more considering going to universities that are based here locally.
What are your projections for student enrollment numbers in the next two years? Where are the majority of your students from? Are there any new enrollment trends currently taking place?
DE MASI: There are 2,700 students at AUD and we do not expect any difference in our intake or in terms of graduates from what it has been in our recent history. The largest group at this university, which accounts for about 15% of our students, is Emiratis. That is followed by quite a few groups who have similar percentages, somewhere around 8%, 9%, or 10%. That would be Iranian students, Indian students and Lebanese students. We have 95 different nationalities represented here. At the end of the day, 50% of the university is Arabic speaking.
In what ways is today’s UAE job market different for new graduates? How has AUD’s curriculum adapting for the change? In what capacity, if any, is the private sector involved in curriculum development?
DE MASI: We have made no change in our curriculum. Curriculum evolves naturally over time and there was no point in time that anyone at this university said that since the world is in recession and Dubai is facing a downturn, we must suddenly teach different things and teach them in different ways. I think the emphasis has been through career services and some of the other mechanisms we use for communicating with students. The emphasis has been on the increased difficulty in getting jobs, and that applies not only here but anywhere in the world. It is very much business as usual at the American University in Dubai. While getting a job has become more difficult in that a job search tends to take a longer period of time, the numbers of people who get jobs, we have always placed about 90% of those people and that has not changed. It may take them a little bit longer, but the end result is the same.
What do students looking to attend a tertiary institution in the region need to look for when selecting a school?
DE MASI: There is really an advantage to achieving the purposes of tertiary education within the environment in which you are eventually going to practice a profession. To me, that is the biggest reason why people should stick around. If they find a school that has the offerings they are looking for at the quality they are looking for, there is a decided advantage to that education having been delivered and acquired in this environment if this is the environment in which that student is going to practice the profession. Education in this environment draws on examples from this environment and that is potentially more relevant. Students should be looking for schools with local licensing and accreditation. It is also important if the prospective school is accredited by accreditation bodies in other countries. Beyond that, I think that people should look very carefully at the graduates of the institutions and where those graduates are placed. In the final analysis of student success, placement can be used as a litmus test as to how successful the educational experience offered by an institution is.
There is really an advantage to achieving the purposes of tertiary education within the environment in which you are eventually going to practice a profession.