The Effects of English Language Medium Universities on the UAE's Culture and Society

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Modern education is relatively new in the Arabian Gulf countries. In 50 years it has rapidly progressed from providing Koranic schooling to western university education. In the 1950’s the GCC countries hired their educational advisors from Egypt, whose influence has long been dominant. Educational institutions under Egyptian influence are traditional, segregated Arab schools, where the language of instruction is Arabic, and the curriculum is dominated by religious studies and history. However, more recently, the western model of education has been ‘imported’. Multinational companies in the Gulf region seek graduates with good communication skills in English, experience with western cultures and business environments, team working, problem solving and interpersonal skills. Thus, western universities with campuses in the UAE have become a highly preferred destination for Arab students who wish to get a western degree. These degrees are accredited worldwide, offering great career opportunities. As a result of these various influences, the UAE education is characterized by a global-local dichotomy. Parents who want their children to experience a more traditional, single-sex education in Arabic send their children to universities influenced by the Egyptian model. Since these students have little knowledge of English language, they have very poor career prospects. However, students graduating from a western style university have a good command of English, familiarity with western cultures and educational methodologies, thus have a great advantage in the job market. The predominant use of English in education in the UAE impacts students’ ‘Arab-ness’. In addition, there is a tension of ideals versus pragmatics. Although Muslims in the UAE do not want to be associated with ideas that conflict with the tenets of Islam, only graduates who are familiar with western cultures and able to compete in the global market have good career prospects.


Keywords: Higher Education, Globalization, English Language Influence
Stream: Education and Social Welfare
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Susan Mikecz Munday

Lecturer, Department of Writing Studies
College of Arts and Sciences, American University of Sharjah

Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Susan Mikecz Munday has been teaching EFL classes for undergraduate students in the United Arab Emirates for over ten years. She has an MPhil (English, Educational and Cultural Studies) from the University of Glasgow and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University (UK). She is currently teaching academic writing courses at the American University of Sharjah, while pursuing a Doctorate of Education degree at the University of Bath. Her research interests include the effects of globalization of higher education and the tensions between the 'modernising' elements associated with a western education and traditional societies.

Ref: I09P0064