A US university closed its Dubai campus in 2009, incurring a loss of US$3.7m, after it declined an offer of a bailout from a Dubai-based firm which the CIA suspected was a front for the Iranian government, it was reported on Monday.
In late 2009, Michigan State University’s Dubai campus was struggling to fill its undergraduate courses and raise its dwindling admission levels.
When the campus was approached by a Dubai-based company willing to provide investment and students, it raised the concerns of the university’s US-based president Lou Anna K Simon.
Simon contacted the US Central Intelligence Agency as she was worried the company, which had investors from Iran and wanted to recruit students from there, might be a front for the Iranian government and any deal might violate US federal trade sanctions and invite enemy spies.
The CIA could not confirm that the company was not an arm of Iran’s government, leading Simon to reject the offer and close its undergraduate programmes in Dubai, Bloomberg reported.
In 2009 many US universities’ Dubai-based campuses were struggling to adjust to the global downturn and were struggling to attract enough qualified students, according to a report in the New York Times at the time.
“Nobody could have anticipated the global meltdown, which has certainly had a negative effect on our student marketing,” Brendan Mullan, executive director of Michigan State Dubai, told the US newspaper then.
Mullan added that the campus would now take five years to break-even, two years more than originally planned, but that the university was still determined to remain in Dubai.
“We still believe this is viable and valuable. We are not compromising on quality, even if that means it takes us longer to gain traction here. We’re not just going to be a teaching storefront here; we’re going to have significant research capacity, and our commitment to Dubai is unyielding.”
However, an upsurge in the regional economy has seen Michigan State University, which was ranked 164 in the world in the recent QS World University Rankings, reopen its campus in Dubai's Knowledge Village.
According to its website, the campus started offering two year healthcare courses in 2011 and will launch two new legal master’s courses in late 2012.