An Examination of the Status of Higher Education in the United Arab Emirates: From Humble Beginnings to Future Challenges
Keywords:Higher education; United Arab Emirates; Economic development; Arab identity; Westernization
Purpose. The paper aimed to investigate the status of higher education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with an eye toward identifying challenges, making recommendations and examine the integration of Western-based higher education in the UAE in order to meet the demands of the UAE’s knowledge-based economy. The primary research question was to what extent the development of higher education in the UAE had been the result of interrelated socio-cultural, economic, and political factors. Methods An extensive research design was employed to conduct a systematic search for relevant studies using several databases. Peer-reviewed journal articles, news articles, government documents, and international reports on higher education in the UAE were identified to elucidate a variety of issues, events, policies, and practices.
Findings The findings demonstrate: first, the UAE government has sought to stimulate scientific progress through the development of higher education as part of a strategy to meet labor demands; Second, the intermingling of Western-based higher education with Islamic traditions has in some cases led to the polarization of the cultural and religious identities of Arab students. Third, while Western-based education has led to the liberation and empowerment of Emirati women, some have expressed concern about a lack of cultural relevance to women’s social roles. Fourth, the preference among Emiratis for employment in government entities has resulted in a lacuna of Emiratis in the private sector. Implications for Research and Practice The study provides an understanding of the unique structure of the education system in the UAE, and shows how higher education institutions can train graduates to participate in public as well as private sector employment. The study would also contribute to suggesting higher education reforms required to meet the challenges posed by a dynamic market economy.