The director behind the success of Dubai Women's College has begun a campaign to bring the struggling men's college up to the same standards.
More than a dozen staff from administrators to department heads have been made redundant from Dubai Men's College since Dr Howard Reed, director of the women's college for more than 20 years, also took charge there last month.
Both institutions are part of the federal Higher Colleges of Technology. Dubai Women's College has long had a reputation as being among the best of its 17 campuses.
Dr Reed said overstaffing and underachievement characterised the men's college, and its students and academics were both a long way below the standard of their female peers.
"This is a radical overhaul," he said. "Everything about that college needs changing."
Dr Reed said something had to be done about the lack of motivation and achievement at the college, and that meant some people had to go.
"Any change is difficult," he said. "If this were a merger between two excellent organisations, it would still be hard. We need the students to want to be better and we need the staff to see we have better management principles."
Some changes have been more straightforward than others. The business and IT department had two heads, one for the first and second-year students, and one for the third and fourth. The two positions have been consolidated. There were also two people doing the job of finance and administration.
"This over-hiring can be seen more than in any other college, and yet they were weak in areas such as career advising and student services, areas that have an impact on the students' learning," Dr Reed said.
Reaction to the redundancies, which were announced in the middle of exam season as staff prepared for their summer holidays, has been mixed.
"We're all so shocked and upset," said one member of staff. "Some of the people who've been let go have been there over 10 years and have formed strong bonds with the college's students."
Another said: "I understand the need to consolidate to save money but this is people's lives we're talking about. Nobody likes to see this happen."
However, many said they accepted that Dr Reed's record at the women's college put him in the best position to turn the failing men's college around.
While the staff have been told they can reapply for jobs elsewhere in HCT's network of 17 campuses, many are looking for work elsewhere.
Those who are redeployed will be paid moving expenses. Departing staff will be paid according to contract: those with more than one year of service receive six months' pay and end-of-service benefits; those with shorter tenure would receive 90 days'.
Dr Mark Drummond, the provost of HCT, emphasised the need for cost-cutting now that the two colleges, whose 5,000 students make up a quarter of those at HCT, are under one director.
"Ninety per cent of the reason for turning Dubai into a single directorate was to consolidate functions where possible," Dr Drummond said. "For instance, you only need one director of libraries, one of facilities, etc.
"In the big world these are very small colleges. Even combined there is a student body only of slightly under 5,000 in Dubai, so there is a need to streamline functions while not diminishing service, and then to put the freed-up resources into the labs and classrooms."
From / The National