Sunday, May 16, 2010

Michigan State in Dubai and NYU in Abu Dhabi

NYU-Abu Dhabi campus

I had posted earlier about KAUST (Xanadu for nerds?), liberal arts education at the American University of Cairo, and Education City in Qatar. Here is another NPR story (about 5 min long) on American university campuses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In particular it talks about Michigan State in Dubai and NYU in Abu Dhabi. I guess I had not realized the small scale of these campuses, but what struck me was that the Michigan State Dubai campus has only 100 students (compared to 47,000 at its Lansing campus).

NYU, on the other hand, is trying to become a truly global university, with branch campuses in 15 other places. I don't know the size of NYU-Abu Dhabi, but I really like their plans for the undergraduate curriculum. Here is from their FAQs:

Describe the undergraduate curriculum.
The NYU Abu Dhabi curriculum, in the tradition of a liberal arts and science college, will expose students to challenging ideas, bodies of knowledge, cultural traditions, and transformative achievements. It will deepen reflection about the human condition to help students develop their abilities and realize their potential.

The core liberal arts curriculum of NYU Abu Dhabi will provide broad introductions to the major questions, research protocols, thought processes, and practices that drive the Humanities, Arts, Sciences, Social Sciences, and Engineering. Students will choose two core courses from each of four major areas:

  • Pathways of World Literature
  • Structures of Thought and Society
  • Art, Technology, and Invention
  • Ideas and Methods of Science

Additionally, students in the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences will specialize in a Major that is declared no later than the fourth semester. Science and Engineering students will normally begin the Major during the first year. Students will also take at least three courses in a Multi-Disciplinary Concentration that is declared no later than the sixth semester. They will have a broad choice of electives, including up to three courses in a Pre-Professional Track. Every student will complete the undergraduate degree with an independent Capstone project or thesis.

This sounds really good. I hope this style of core-curriculum becomes standard for undergraduate education across the middle-east.

Listen to the NPR story here.


emre said...

I think this idea of bringing about change through foreign education institutions is problematic. If they have a noticeable effect, they might create a backlash. If they don't have an effect, then they are by definition useless.

I think something like this happened in the Ottoman Empire with American missionary schools, but I am not sure.

Who knows... let's hope they succeed. They definitely need to broaden their horizons.

Salman Hameed said...

Well, three things:
a) I think globalization makes the situation different. People travel across with relative ease. Plus, some (many?) of the enrolled may be the ones who were planning on going to the US anyways, and now they can enroll right in their neighborhood.

b) But I think you have a good point. This is the reason local, modern universities will end up playing a crucial role. Perhaps, this is what makes the KAUST experiment so important. I just hope such local universities broaden up to include liberal arts education.

c) As far as American Missionary schools are concerned, well, part of the problem may have been their "missionary" issue. But as far as I know there was mixed reaction to the schools, which still end up playing an important role in the region. Isn't American University of Beirut (AUB) part of this system?

I think times have changed quite a bit. But I see your point...

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