Arab students looking to study abroad but stay in the Middle East have branch campuses of many overseas universities to choose from, right in their own backyard. Each offers a touch of its home university without the overseas travel. But, there are some differences from one branch campus to another.
“The branch campus is succinctly defined as a location where a foreign university provides a degree on a campus in another country,” says Kevin Kinser, co-founder of the Cross-Border Education Research Team, or C-BERT, at the University at Albany—SUNY, which tracks transnational education. “So first there needs to be a foreign university involved.”
Branch campuses are unlike Western-style Arab region universities such as American University in Cairo or American University of Beirut that he says, “mimic the academic format from the foreign university but only award a local degree.”
While a high school student, Omani national Alya Al Harthy applied to universities in the U.S., United Kingdom and two branch campuses of U.S. institutions in Qatar: Texas A&M University and Northwestern University. She chose the former and studied petroleum engineering for two years before transferring to Northwestern. Al Harthy says when she first applied to schools she sought an American-style education.
“Advice I had received described American-style education as more holistic and less narrow with regards to the topic of study,” says Al Harthy, on tips she received from her high school teachers. “It’s a longer study period, four years versus three years in the U.K., but I thought I’d have the option of studying different electives.”
Al Harthy says it was because she was able to get exposure to many liberal arts courses at Texas A&M that she ended up switching her major to communication.
Nanci Martin, spokeswoman for Northwestern University, says the school provides an American-style liberal arts education with a choice of two four-year degrees in journalism or communication. She says the school follows the semester system and accepts either the TOEFL, the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or the IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, as language requirements for admission.
Qatar has 11 branch campuses, the majority of which are American, according to C-BERT. The United Arab Emirates hosts the most branch campuses in the world – 32 – with the U.K. topping Western-style branches there.
Kinser, chair of the department of educational administration and policy studies at SUNY—Albany, says branch campus education is “technically the same as what is offered at the home campus.” However, he says students are not getting the same campus experience and that faculty quality and expertise may differ and research may be limited. He says that though the curriculum, courses and degree may be like the home campus, “it is better to be thought of as similar rather than identical.”
Prospective students should keep in mind that there are some differences between the U.K. and U.S. systems. Degree programs at U.S.-affiliated campuses are usually a year longer than those tied to U.K. institutions. U.S. university branch campuses emphasize breadth, meaning students take classes in many different fields and subjects, whereas those connected to U.K. systems emphasize depth, or focus on a student’s chosen subject.
For example, Middlesex University in Dubai, a branch of the U.K. school, has three-year degrees and focuses all three years on depth, according to its website. Branch campuses of U.S. universities allow students to choose a major at the end of their second year, while those of U.K. institutions require students to choose a major when they apply. U.K. schools typically have “colleges” focused on one subject as well.
For students seeking a French-style education, one option is Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, which teaches in French and offers undergrad degrees that take three years for students fluent in French. A degree takes four years for less fluent students, who must take a one-year intensive French course before beginning their chosen program. The school follows the semester system.
[Source:- US news]