To translate the vision of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohmmad bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, and His Highness Sheikh Mohmmad bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, we respectfully request emiratisation of the community college model. It is indeed a challenge and opportunity for Knowledge Human Resource Development Authority (KHDA) to provide relevant higher education institution where young emiratis, or foreign workers, are well-positioned to engage in developmental work and at the same time continue to get higher education through US-like community colleges at affordable fees with flexibility of class and class attendance. Community colleges focus on practical skills and training for the workforce combined with theoretical knowledge that also make them well-suited for development projects throughout the UAE. This hands-on and local approach is typically what is needed by institutions trying to implement new systems and strategies.
Community colleges in the US have historically been identified as prospective models by countries trying to address gaps in their education systems. Much of the interest in community colleges, globally, has centered on their role in workforce training and, more recently, on the concept of transfer credits, open access, and flexible education pathways to universities. The definition of the local community is changing in the UAE as expatriates from more than 250 countries are living and working here: And, many have a desire to further their education beyond high school, but they do not possess the academic skills or ability to be accepted at a regional university. As the forces of globalization begin affecting knowledge, employment, and learning, community colleges respond in various ways that most universities simply cannot. Sometimes there are demographic changes in local service areas that reflect a more globally mobile society, or it may be because local businesses have ties with global brands and need industrial training or immediate workforce development to meet those needs. Community colleges are positioned to engage in development work, transfer credits, and workforce development, more so than other higher education institutions because of their flexibility, adaptability, and inclusive vision. And, their focus on basic and practical skills and training for the workplace and on university transfer makes them ideal counterparts to conduct development projects and workforce development, and to act as university transfer conduits for students seeking to complete their first two years of study locally.
The one important aspect that distinguishes the US higher education system is its flexibility. This flexibility provides students the ability to mix and match courses to suit their individual needs, rather than being locked into a curriculum prescribed by typical universities from Britain, Australia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, or Canada. Furthermore, the UK-style higher education, like most national higher education systems, was designed originally for elites, but the US community college model was designed to accommodate students of modest means or intellect who needed to quickly acquire practical skills that would help them financially support themselves and their families. In addition, this community college approach evolved into a transfer system to universities and other four-year baccalaureate programs. This community college approach is well-suited to Dubai where growth and change are happening at a much faster pace than ever before, but it could quickly scale up with other branch campuses in the other Sheikhdoms of the UAE. The US tradition of credit transfer from community college to either three or four, year university colleges is well-suited to UAE too. Those of modest means can first generate an income stream from the skills acquired at a community college and then plough back their subsequent savings to earn a more advanced degree. This tiered education system, with a robust United Arab Emirates Community College, would feed into Dubai and other Middle Eastern university systems, and provide for a better trained and educated local and regional workforce.
UAE Community College will open pathways for higher education to young Emirati students and expatriates leading to graduation with a two-year degree while working in government or private jobs in UAE or beyond (with online offerings). Students can register for two-year degrees like the Associates of Arts, Associate of Science, or an Associate of Applied Science while working. After completing coursework for two years, which includes English language, math, science, social sciences, and morality, along with other subject related courses, students transfer their credits to any university in UAE. Community colleges align their curriculum in the Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degree programs with universities to insure a seamless transfer of the students and their academic credits to those institutions. After one or two years of coursework at the university, for what is needed to matriculate from that university, the student is awarded a Bachelor’s degree. Those students who do not want to pursue further education after two years with an Associate of Applied Science degree would also be eligible to graduate with a two-year degree from UAE Community College and immediately go to work in their chosen field of study. Perhaps the most common reason that students will attend UAE Community College is to increase their earning potential. Graduates of community colleges find employment at varying levels of society and in virtually every sector of commerce and industry.
Knowledge economies are built from the ground up. Community colleges are the critical link between secondary education and higher education in the 21st century and the building of the knowledge economy. The UAE is positioned to build and sustain a community college that will boost the local and regional education levels, begin paying for itself within two or three years, and have the ability to expand to all of the Emirates. To ensure that this, in fact, transpires, we would invite the education ministers of the Sheikhdoms to each nominate a candidate for the UAECC Board, to draft a plan for their financial contribution, and to set a meeting place and time of the Board to begin the identification of UAECC locations, curricula, and staff. We will be happy to assist in any way.
Syed Iqbal Hasnain, Managing Director, Desert Side Training Institute (offering courses of Montgomery Community College, Maryland, USA) and Lawrence Gundersen, Professor of History Jackson State Community College, Tennessee, USA