The Mason Spirit: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of George Mason University

Extending Our Reach

Possibility of Mason campus in Dubai is explored

By Jeremy Lasich, B.A. Communication ’98, and Fran Rensbarger

At an October special meeting of the Board of Visitors (BOV) Faculty and Academic Standards Committee, Provost Peter Stearns received the green light to continue negotiations for the possible establishment of George Mason’s first international campus, which would be located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The committee unanimously agreed that the option should be further explored.

“The UAE would be a tremendously interesting location because a campus there would draw potential students from various parts of the Middle East and also from countries such as India and Pakistan in South Asia,” says Stearns. “It’s a dynamic region that has a favorable relationship with the United States. Dubai aspires to be the world’s next Hong Kong, and the country is well on its way. So, this is an exciting place to be, particularly at a time when, like all institutions, we’re having trouble maintaining the kind of international student flow that we would like.”

The campus would be developed in collaboration with ETA-NET, a UAE-based multinational corporation, which would fund most of the project. “ETA-NET already administers programs for a couple of universities,” says Stearns, “and is offering basically the same kind of service to us.” The proposed Mason campus would offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees. The first major areas likely to be established would be nursing, information technology, management, biology, communication, and visual technology. A possible link in the area of information technology with United Arab Emirates University is also being explored.

Under the proposal, George Mason would be responsible for the quality and standards of the academic programs offered at Dubai, the curricula, academic process, teaching methodology, examinations and evaluations, quality assurance, and continuous monitoring of institutional effectiveness. ETA-NET would provide classrooms and audiovisual facilities, computer equipment and software, libraries, and faculty members per George Mason’s requirements.

During the October meeting, several BOV members raised concerns about the new campus, including not enough due diligence on ETA-NET, the need for an exit strategy if the project does not succeed within the first few years, profit distribution, damage to George Mason’s reputation if the campus fails, and the cost factor, including time spent on the proposal by faculty members and senior management. Stearns adequately addressed most of the issues and said others could not be answered until the negotiations progressed.

“We’re excited about the possibilities but not sure of what will go forward,” says Stearns.

Last November, three representatives from one of the emirates and ETA-NET visited George Mason to tour the Fairfax Campus and meet with Stearns, Associate Provost for Global Education Yehuda Lukacs, and representatives of several university departments.

“We’re really trying to determine whether the sources of revenue are adequate to ensure the quality of the programs both they and we wish to see provided,” says Stearns.

If the campus is approved, Stearns says the university will receive several benefits, including an opportunity to contribute seriously to the educational structure and professional training apparatus in a vital, increasingly significant part of the world; an enhancement of international perspectives and experiences for George Mason faculty members and the university’s curriculum in a variety of fields; and new study-abroad opportunities for Mason’s American students.