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Developing Engineering Education In The Middle East Using The North American Model – What Assumptions Are Valid?

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering Education in the Mid-East / Asia

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

13.395.1 - 13.395.8



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Paper Authors


Raymond Thompson DAE University

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Raymond E. Thompson is Dean of Aero & Astro Sciences at DAE University, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Developing Engineering Education in the Middle East Using the North American Model – What Assumptions Are Valid?


The development of aerospace and mechanical engineering programs at a new university in the United Arab Emirates is a challenging task. A new private, locally owned, university is providing all programs in English using the North American educational model in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Program development and regulation is significantly difference in the Gulf region than the United States and the diversity of student background and education challenging. Many established institutions have set up branch campuses to deliver programs with varying results.

Programs that enroll student-nationals have to achieve accreditation by a governmental regulatory body for student-nationals to be eligible to work for the government. The socio- political aspects in the Middle East provide for significant interlocking of control and ownership by key people in the government structure. Most major corporations have significant government, or government official, ownership. The large number of public-private owned company’s means that student-national employment is affected for most engineering opportunities and government accreditation is required to be competitive.

Balancing accreditation (i.e. regulation) with pedagogy is problematic. Student preparation varies tremendously depending on where a student attended K-12. Options range from government operated public schools for nationals to private international baccalaureate programs. Considering that organized K-12 public education regionally has only been available for 25-40 years, preparation is less than desired and often the rote method of education has been the primary methodology used. Although English is not the first language for most students, English is the language of business in the Middle East. Issues related to language, mathematics preparation are on a scale beyond the experience of most North American, European, Australian, or Indian universities. These issues, along with cultural traditions such as being oral-based, must be understood to provide programs for students in the Gulf region.

All these factors combine to derail traditional assumptions on minimum student preparation. Programs that exactly follow the North American model experience reduced success. This paper will explore what assumptions are valid, what support mechanisms are critical for student success, and how to blend the regulatory requirements with innovative methodology to produce graduates for a region that needs and desires high quality education.


In the past ten years, many universities have opened branch programs in the Middle East, especially in Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, numerous local institutions have been established. According to Theodore Kattouf, former US ambassador “Even before September 11 there has been dissatisfaction with the quality of higher education in a number of Arab countries. Standards have declined as the number of young people

Thompson, R. (2008, June), Developing Engineering Education In The Middle East Using The North American Model – What Assumptions Are Valid? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4434

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