Archive for May, 2010

The comments have been rolling on The National’s May 12 story about UAE universities cutting back on salaries and allowances.  Have a look at them here.

What I find particularly interesting in some of the commentary is the reference to regular school allowances of 80,000 Dhs and ‘additional fee’ allowances of 20,000 Dhs.  That comes to an annual benefit of about USD 28,000 that is only available to employees with children.

While the exorbitant school fees here in Abu Dhabi (sometimes nearly 50,000 Dhs per child) and other family-related expenses put expats with dependents in an understandably difficult situation, I have to question the fairness of compensation schemes:  Should employees with dependents automatically earn more than single employees, or should they be expected to pay for some of their family expenses out-of-pocket?  Is it fair to supply an employee with a non-working spouse and children triple the number of annual business-class tickets home while limiting the airfare allowance to one ticket in cases where a spouse works and there are no children?  I myself have never heard of a job, in any sector, that pays a higher salary to employees on the basis of marital or parental status.

Comments welcome.


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Today’s National reports the following:

Pay frozen and job losses loom as UAE universities feel the pinch

I am not an economist, but there seems to be something truly wrong with this news. I could go on about GDPs, GNPs, per capita income and so forth, but I won’t.  I’ll just ask why a country that appears to be so damned wealthy is having a hard time supporting its federal educational institutions.

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Money money money

Today’s post is brought to you by the Sign of the Dollar.  Or the Dirham.  Or whatever native currency you feel comfortable with.

If you spend a little time looking around the net, you’ll find a few forums where expat hires ask for something like a reality check on a salary package (indeed, one post I dug up was titled something like *Need a reality check on a salary offer*).  And why not?  It’s easy enough to figure out what the cost of living is halfway around the world, but if you’re like me you probably want to know where your offer falls in the pecking order.  So here we go.  (I’ve updated these with new information found through 5 June, and will continue to do so as I find references to salary packages on the forums.)

Just yesterday, a new member of Dave’s ESL Cafe asked for comments on his/her 10,000 AED/month salary at the International School of Creative Sciences (I myself have not yet heard of that one).  The poster has a PGCE (Brit-speak for post-graduate certificate in education).  Click here for the comments.

Got that?  ’10K is low.’  ‘Don’t settle for less than 15K plus the usual benefits.’  ’10K is taking the piss.’

Ok, so the ISCS maybe needs to get a little more creative with its salary packages.

Let’s get back to the ‘plus the usual benefits’ phrase for just a minute.  Here in the UAE, that translates as ‘plus FREE housing, round-trip tickets to the home country for the employee and family, health insurance for the whole family, schooling allowances for children (usually capped at a certain amount), and perhaps a relocation allowance.’  This is, in fact, a fairly standard package.  And that 15K plus the usual benefits is what the crowd over at Dave’s is claiming to be the norm…a crowd with master’s degrees.

Here are a few corroborating quotes (all figures are in UAE dirhams):

For KUSTAR (Sharjah campus EFL lecturers):

Basic package is 15,000 + housing which for a family is about 9,000 per month, education allowance of 80K (40K max per child) and tickets home.  (another poster mentions that this is the same package offered at the high school level at IAT).

For HCT (Dubai non-teaching jobs):

18,715 AED per month plus standard accomodation, insurance, flights home, vacation, 30,000 AED relocation, etc.

For HCT (various locations, ESL instructors):

11,000 AED per month and SHARED accomodation. [my emphasis]

For IAT (Abu Dhabi, ESL instructors [I assume]):

12,000 to 15,000 basic with 11,800 housing…just shy of 25,000 a month.

For Zayed University (Asst. Professor, and take note that Zayed provides housing and the usual other benefits):

…a monthly salary of 17000…

For HCT (various locations, ESL instructors [I assume]):

Have hear [sic] of three folks starting at over 18,000 AED a month with zero experience at the tertiary level…

For KUSTAR (Abu Dhabi, Asst. Prof, Physics):

basic:  14K/month
other allowances:  20/month
kids education: up to 54 k/ year
annual tickets
(No housing proved [sic] by the univ. of course)

For KUSTAR (Sharjah, Asst. Prof, Engineering):

15.5k basic salary
10.5k allowance
plus medical and flights benefits

For The Petroleum Institute (ESL teachers with MAs – note the date):

In 2002, PI salaries for EFL people were pretty much Dh 15,000 across the board, with a furniture allowance of Dh. 44,000.

For Zayed University (ESL teachers with MAs):

I’d say that you should be looking at 13-17,000 Dhs (US$3500-4500) depending on whether your experience is pre or post MA and how closely your experience matches their program. The package will also include housing, a nice furniture allowance, flights, gratuity, medical… the usual. Housing is normally a two-bedroom flat is a new or nearly new building. You will have to search long and hard here to find any teachers complaining here about the conditions.

And Bardsley (2009) reports the following in The National’s story about encouraging Emiratis to become academics:

Typically an assistant professor at a government university earns about Dh25,000 (US$6,800) a month, while a full professor may earn more than double this.

Interesting reading, don’t you think?


Various authors.  Various dates.  Dave’s ESL Café (United Arab Emirates forum).  Retrieved (13 May 2010) from http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewforum.php?f=30.

Bardsley, D. 22 Dec 2009. Emiratis encouraged to become Academics.  The National. Retrieved (12 May 2009) from http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091223/NATIONAL/712229874/1010/rss</p&gt;

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The Ph.D. Fallacy (redux)

I heard a funny thing — actually, two funny things — from a friend the other day.  They’re really not funny by themselves, but in juxtaposition they send me over the edge (not to mention providing me with new fodder for Academics in the Desert).

Thing 1:
When confronted with the prospect that perhaps English Ph.D. holders weren’t really required to teach freshman English courses, a faculty member at an institution that will remain nameless commented that students deserve teachers with the highest possible degrees.

Thing 2:
A few days later, the same faculty member was overheard having a conference with a student.  The general theme of that conference was something along the lines of

This is not a sentence.  This is a fragment.  A sentence needs to have a subject and a verb.  This does not have a subject and a verb; therefore, it is not a sentence.

Uh huh.

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A few days ago, Khalifa University of Science, Technology, and Research (KUSTAR) announced that Tod Laursen from Duke University would become its new president (to date it appears that KUSTAR has only had an interim president).

I’ll confess:  I don’t know much about university presidents, other than that they seem to make a boatload (or two) of money — the median pay for chief execs at public institutions in 2008-2009 was US$ 436,111 (Lopez-Rivera, 2010).  One can only wonder what the pay is at HEIs here in the mideast, so it’s no mystery that 200-odd applicants threw their hats in to the ring when the recent start-up engineering school in Abu Dhabi advertised.

I think I want to wish the fellow congratulations, but I’m not really sure.


Lopez-Rivera, M. (18 Jan 2010). Paychecks stagnate for presidents of many public universities. The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Retrieved (5 May 2010) from http://chronicle.com/article/Pay-Stagnates-for-Many/63546.

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Update:  15 July 2010
The link to the British Council .ppt document appears to no longer be valid.  You can view the document here:  Research in the UAE (Morgan, n.d.).  Sorry BC folks, but if you don’t want your presentations up on the web, I suggest not putting them here.

How I stumbled upon this presentation from the British Council on UK opportunities in the UAE, I’ll never know.  But do have a look before it disappears from the ether altogether.  And no, you won’t find it on the Education UK Partnership unless you’re a member.

What interests me most about this piece is the complete lack of support and interpretation of the statistics.  Numbers are thrown at us with absolutely no context.  Sure, they might have been mentioned orally, but they’re certainly not in the version that now lingers on the internet.  Here are a few examples.

According to the presentation (Morgan, n.d.), the UAE ranked as follows in the 2009 Global Competitiveness Index:

  • Tertiary enrolments:  79th
  • Quality of scientific research institutions:  74th
  • University-industry research collaboration:  58th
  • Availability of scientists and engineers:  75th
  • USA patents:  88th
  • Company spending on R&D:  50th
  • Gov’t procurement of advanced technology products:  11th
  • Overall innovation:  46th

Of course, these numbers don’t mean much unless one looks at the context — it’s rather like saying that the UAE’s tertiary enrolment ranks “apple” (a term you’ll see  me use often to describe any discussion of numbers without an accompanying scale).  According to the 2008-09 Global Competitiveness Report, however,  the list is 134 countries long, so 75th is comfortably in the lower half  — a fact that we are unable to glean from Morgan’s table.  Even more interesting is what ’75th’ means given the fact that the GCR includes the UAE in its list of 37 most-developed (Stage 3) countries.  So in a sense we can look at those numbers not relative to the list of all countries, but in the context of the Stage 3 list.  The result is that the UAE is squarely at the bottom of its class.

Here are the updated numbers from the GCR of 2009-2010, which now ranks out of 133 economies (Moldova was excluded):

  • Tertiary enrolments:  81st
  • Quality of scientific research institutions:  53th
  • University-industry research collaboration:  39th
  • Availability of scientists and engineers:  28th
  • Utility* patents:  38th
  • Company spending on R&D:  30th
  • Gov’t procurement of advanced technology products:  2th
  • Overall innovation:  27th

Beyond looking at the context, we need to examine the relationship among these indices and how they change from year to year.  For example, from 2008-09 to 2009-10, tertiary enrolment rankings declined slightly, but other education rankings seem to have improved substantially.  This stability of higher education enrolment, coupled with a significant increase in the availability of scientists and engineers makes me wonder exactly what’s going on, particularly with respect to the oft-heard catchphrase ‘building the knowledge economy’:  Where are these scientists and engineers coming from when tertiary enrolment remains stable?  Why are there so many more scientists and engineers than in the previous year (or has the number of scientists and engineers remained stable in the UAE and simply declined in other countries)?  It certainly doesn’t make sense, time-wise, that they’re coming from those improved scientific research institutions.  Wherever they may be coming from, however, the numbers by themselves, without reference to either context or comparison, are meaningless.

Another ‘AppleStat’ occurs when Morgan presents the 2008 ranking of United Arab Emirates University, arguably the top tertiary institution in the UAE, as “between 400th and 500th in the THE-QS world rankings” (Morgan, n.d.) without bothering to tell us the total number of universities that were ranked.  That number appears to be somewhere between 500 and 600, by the way (which means that at best, UAEU is in the bottom 30-odd percent and at worst, pretty much at bottom of the list) Again, more interesting than the simple statement is the context:  UAEU wasn’t even on the list of THE QS in 2006 or 2007 and no other UAE institution is on the list at all.  (For the record, subsequent to Morgan’s presentation, UAEU’s ranking climbed to 374 in 2009).

Finally, a shocking statistic:  according to Morgan, one of the obstacles to building research capacity here in the UAE is that “only 20% of Emirati men graduate high school.”  Everything I’ve read in random newspaper articles is consistent with this statement, but where did this number actually come from?  Thirty minutes of advanced Googling hasn’t pointed me to anything that I can reliably cite to back this number up, yet the British Council throws it out to us.  Compare this August, 2009 policy brief from the Dubai School of Government (and by all means, do have a look at the statistics).

To be fair, Morgan’s presentation investigates the opportunities available here in the UAE to UK universities.  And he does a good job of giving us an overview of a number of local HEIs.  But to the extent he tosses out numbers without context, analysis, or citations, his readers either remain at a loss or have to do the work themselves.  That work took me about two hours.


Morgan, B. (n.d.).  Research in the UAE:  An opportunity for UK universities? The British Council.  Retrieved (5 May 2010) from http://www.britishcouncil.org/research_in_the_uae.ppt

Ridge, N. (2009).  The hidden gender gap in education in the UAE.  Dubai School of Government Policy Brief No. 12. Retrieved (5 May 2010) from http://www.dsg.ae/LinkClick.aspx?link=Policy+Brief+12+Ridge+English.pdf&tabid=308&mid=826

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  • From The National:  ‘Expectations haven’t advanced with UAE women’
  • Khalifa University announces its new president
  • UAE University’s firing spree (no that’s not a misspelling)

Stay tuned.

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