Graduate study offices at federal and private universities in the UAE generally operate on self-funding business models, responding to market needs. This essentially results in them running the risk of participating in the commoditisation of graduate education, said an expert from Zayed University (ZU).
Gulf News spoke to Dr Chet Jablonski, Dean of Graduate Studies at ZU, at the Evolving Corporate Universities Forum in Dubai last week. He delivered a talk titled ‘A Degree of Distinction: Is university-based corporate higher education in the UAE a bridge or a bridge too far?'
"Commoditisation of graduate education may be partially true for any programme offered on a business model and not restricted to professional masters designed to address corporate education needs," he said. "I think if we do it well and maintain high academic standards while at the same time addressing a client need, we have a ‘win-win' situation."
Article continues below
However, he added that it is his job as the dean of graduate studies to maintain quality in the process of offering professional masters degrees to closed cohorts sponsored by corporations.
It is essentially a balancing act of maintaining academic standards while meeting corporate needs and demands for specific professional master's programmes. But it is an essential juggle due to the fact that corporate clients present a steady flow of income and a reliable customer base as employee training is a constant in the UAE's developing industries.
When faced with the issue of corporate clients presenting the graduate studies office with a prepared curriculum, Dr Jablonski said discussions are held to ensure a compromise.
"We tell them we can do enough bending of the curriculum to fit what they want but include all the educational elements such as critical thinking skills," he said.
During his talk, Dr Jablonski said ZU is limited to providing professional masters programmes, having to sacrifice on the more humanistic, arts and social sciences offerings.
"To an extent by the nature of the funding model, graduate education has to be commoditised," said Dr Jablonski. "Private universities who work on the same model [undergraduate or postgraduate] are a little more out on the edge than we are."