UAE will teach Emiratis Emirati traditions at universities and colleges

Fewer than 1 in 10 instructors at public universities and colleges is Emirati, it was revealed at the Federal National Council on Wednesday.

Members of the council called for better salaries and incentives for Emiratis, making a career in academia was more attractive to them.

Of 2,872 instructors in public universities, 252 were Emirati the 2014-2015 academic year. In private universities, only 85 out of 4,364 were Emiratis.

FNC members believed this low figure was because of low salaries and long hours that give academics little time to undertake research that would help them advance their careers.

The council heard that the average salary of an instructor at the UAE University was Dh57,500 a month while a lecturer was paid Dh 28,667.

At Zayed University, the salary of an instructor was not declared, but that of an associate instructor was Dh23,000, while a lecturer earnt Dh16,000 and a professor’s salary was Dh23,031.

Dr Ahmad Belhoul, Minister of State for Higher Education, attended the session to answer questions from members.

Hamad Al Rahoomi, member for Dubai, said it was a concern that the lack of Emirati staff meant foreigners taught local traditions and values, because the students should be learning identity and loyalty from a a countryman, “not someone who does not even know the names of the places”.

“I took this point from the students themselves,” said Mr Al Rahoomi.

“How do I learn about my traditions from a non-Emirati? What does he know about my history?” he said students had told him.

Dr Al Belhoul said he did not see a problem if the instructor was qualified in that subject.

Dr Rima Sabban, an Emirati associate professor of sociology at Zayed University, believed there were factors beyond the salary issue that led Emiratis to shun academia.

She said not enough had been done to invest in academics and improve their skillsets.

“At the start, Emirati academics were appreciated by the Government, like when an Emirati achieved the level of PHD, you felt great appreciation,” she said.

She believed more Emiratis were opting for careers in business.

She agreed that academics were overburdened by having to teach about eight courses a year, which left no room for them gain promotions or reach the full professorial level.

While she was able to get promoted at Zayed University, she said the institutions were not focusing on their staff’s careers and Emiratis were not given priority.

She hoped the Government would work to make Emiratis “knowledge producers not just teachers”.

The FNC also heard that 47 per cent of high school graduates were enrolling in private universities instead of public ones, and 39 per cent enrolled in free zone universities because they were easier to get accepted in.

Member Afraa Al Basti (Dubai) said that in public universities the minimum high school average to be accepted was too high. She called for English language placement tests such as IELTS, SAT and TOEFL to be replaced by national examinations.

She said the high English language requirements were unfair for students who came from the mountains or the desert who may have had excellent academic performances but were rejected in universities because of their poor English skills.

Dr Belhoul said his ministry was already looking into this issue.

FNC speaker Dr Amal Al Qubaisi argued that there should be a balance between preserving Arabic and promoting English, which is the language of “the times whether we like it or not”.


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