Archive for the ‘Education in the News’ Category

I now have in hand the three relevant journal articles (Elhoweris 2005, Bianco 2005, and Elhoweris 2009).

At first glance, things are smelling a bit fishy with respect to Elhoweris’s defense, recently reported in The National, that her 2009 article used similar wording as in her 2005 article (which predated Bianco, 2005).  Implicit in Elhoweris’s statement to The National is the claim that Elhoweris 2009 was more similar to Elhoweris 2005 than to Bianco 2005.  A machine-comparison of the documents indicates this may not actually be the case, but a human-comparison will be necessary before any conclusions can be drawn.

I’ll post more once I have a chance to do a more thorough reading of the three articles.  Due to the journals’ copyrights on these papers, I cannot publicise them on this blog.

Stay tuned.


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Back in November of 2010, I posted a piece on the retraction of a journal article authored by a UAEU faculty member. The post elicited a response from the author (Margarita Bianco) whose work was allegedly used without proper attribution, confirming that there had been no apology from either the UAEU faculty member, Dr Hala ElHoweris or from the UAEU administration.  Furthermore, the retracted article continued to appear on Dr ElHoweris’s CV.

Just yesterday, Dr Bianco called to my attention an article published in The National:  “Academic cleared of plagiarism allegation” (Swan, 19 Apr 2011).  According to this piece, senior academics at UAE University have cleared Dr ElHoweris of plagiarism after an investigation that seemed to have been prompted by my original blog post on the subject.  Ah, the power of the pen to stimulate action.

But I have two concerns.  First of all, Elhoweris defends her continued inclusion of the retracted article on her CV by saying that “[she] had not been asked by the publishers to retract it” (Swan, 19 Apr 2011).  Well, it seems to this blogger that the act of retracting a publication from an academic journal means that the article has not been published in that journal, and therefore has no business remaining on the author’s list of publications.  I would expect an academic to realise this and refrain from justifying her continued inclusion of the article because she wasn’t specifically asked to delete it.

My second concern, however, has to do with Swan’s reporting that ElHoweris has been “cleared of plagiarism allegation” because senior academics at UAEU have investigated the issue.  It may very well be the case that ElHoweris’s defense is sound, but one has to question whether the university has the competence or authority to clear her of the plagiarism allegation when the editors of the journal Educational Studies and the publisher Taylor Francis Group have apparently not seen fit to absolve the author.

I can offer no judgement regarding who is in the right in this situation, as I have not seen the three articles in question. Should either Dr ElHoweris or Dr Bianco desire to send along copies of such, I will be happy to review them and post some side-by-side comparisons so that my readers can judge for themselves.


Swan, M. (19 April 2011). The National. Academic cleared of plagiarism allegation.  Retrieved (19 Apr 2011) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/academic-cleared-of-plagiarism-allegation

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Not my commentary, but an anonymous response to The National’s recent article on UAE researchers wanting more recognition:

Joe Blog

This is an institutionalised racism and is present across all spectrum. One would expact the academic body to be free from this but in reality, this may not always be the case. Often the western academia relies on funding and as such is forced to toe the political line. The emerging country should look to the east and not be impressed by the say so of western American institute. Ofcourse in many arena the academics based in western countries are far ahead then eastern counterpart. However the exchange of ideas is not just one way process but multidimensional. The only way to do this is to have a strong presense in national level first. Having institute linked with western acadamia only makes sense when national institute are not producing the qauality work.

If Joe is with a ‘national institute’ I strongly suggest a conscientious effort to link that institute with western academia.  Or macadamia.


Conroy, E. (6 Nov 2010). UAE researchers want more recognition. The National. Retrieved (9 Nov 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/uae-researchers-want-more-recognition

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This week The National ran yet another story on ADEC’s revamping of the primary/secondary system:

Being taught in English ‘undermines local identity’

Check out these quotes:

Local educators responded that the native English teacher hiring campaign is “an ‘external intervention’ that will erode the cultural and national identity of students” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the word external.

Dr Maryam Sultan Lootah of the UAE University said that “foreign experts come in and draft these programmes without understanding the cultural sensibilities” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the operative word experts.

Ms Hessa Ali, a maths supervisor, believes that despite the well-known shortage of qualified UAE national educators “the ministry [of education] does not need to recruit teachers from abroad…We have good teachers here who are qualified and most importantly who speak with the students in their mother tongue” (Ahmed, 6 Oct 2010).  Note the absence of Ms Ali’s grasp of reality.

In my thinking, there are two things wrong with the local reaction to ADEC’s Education Strategy 2010-2020 (which seems to be quite similar to the failed Vision 2020 that was announced over a decade ago and scrapped because of the negative local reaction — one has to wonder how many times this cycle will repeat itself).

The first problem is that Abu Dhabi is already chock full of identity-reducing matter:  western fast-food chains, Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim, skyscrapers (remember, we’re talking about a traditionally Bedouin identity), expat labour (both skilled and unskilled), and more Italian sportscars than I’ve seen on the roads in Italy — ALL HERE because the local population (and this is key) wants them.  As one would expect, the demand has created the market.

The second problem is that old chestnut of whining about external experts. Well, folks, this country is what it is today by and large as a result of those highly-skilled workers who have been hired from afar to build an infrastructure. They are necessary due to the dearth of internal experts.  Once the local skill and knowledge base (not to mention the willingness to work at certain jobs) is built up, we can dispense with the foreign guest workers.  Until then, the external expert will continue to be necessary.

Or we can just continue along the same road, with the infelicitous result that most university freshman will be ill-equipped to succeed in the global economy.


Ahmed, A. (6 October 2010). Being taught in English ‘undermines local identity’. The National. Retrieved (8 October 2010) from http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/education/being-taught-in-english-undermines-local-identity

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NYUAD, Blank Slates, and Hubris

In her 13 September article Washington Square News article, NYU Abu Dhabi: the story from concept to classroom, Jane Timm offers us further insight on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus.  Actually, a lot of it sounds like everything I’ve read before, but one section stood out:

The tabula rasa
Sitting in the cafe at the NYUAD center during Candidate’s Weekend, I had a moment to talk with Sexton alone.  “We can bring people from New York and unleash them here to create an ideal world,” Sexton said. “The mandate is excellence.”

Later in the same section, Timm writes that “In Abu Dhabi, NYU was given a blank slate — the funding and means to build an ideal school.”

So which is it, Miss Timm?  A blank slate or a blank cheque?  These mean two very different things.

The first term can be taken as a metaphor for ignorance, with the implication that Abu Dhabi is somehow in need of nurturing or education (by New Yorkers, apparently) in order to reach its “ideal” potential.  That it very much may be, but I probably wouldn’t be shouting it very loudly in the official NYU newspaper.

I think what Timm (and Sexton) really meant to convey was the blank-slatedness of the NYU Abu Dhabi project, not of Abu Dhabi itself — although further down in the article there is another worrying section on political protesting headed with the words “Take back Abu Dhabi.”  It’s clear this is a reference to a Take Back NYU campaign of a while ago, but again, the implication is that someone from New York needs to come over here and straighten out the emirate’s political climate.

I’d like to think that these connotations of presumptuousness are just a possible interpretation of Timm’s words and that all she (or NYUAD) is really guilty of is poor word choice and vagueness of references.  But with all the unknowns surrounding NYU’s latest project, I would urge taking more care with one’s words.

Or just count on most people not having read Aristotle.


Timm, J.C. (13 Sept 2010). NYU Abu Dhabi: the story from concept to classroom.  Washington Square News. Retrieved (14 Sept 2010) from http://nyunews.com/news/2010/09/13/13abudhabi/

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We’re in the middle of ramadan, so there’s been a dearth of education-related news over here lately.  But something came through the ether today that I think is worth a read, particularly if you’re on the board of advisors at any of the recent tertiary ventures in the desert (KUSTAR comes to mind — there are no less than four references to ‘world-class’ on its About Page):

Nine common errors when building a new world-class university


Salmi, J. 22 August 2010. Nine common errors when building a new world-class university.  Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved (23 August 2010) from http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/the_world_view/nine_common_errors_when_building_a_new_world_class_university

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Apples and oranges

Today in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Naomi Schaefer Riley discusses the ups and downs of start-up universities, once again comparing NYU Abu Dhabi to MSU Dubai:

The comparison with Michigan State is not perfect. It was receiving most of its funds from the home institution, and it is a less prestigious brand. (Riley, 1 August 2010)

The comparison, from my perspective, is far from perfect.  Whatever the potential problems may be at NYU Abu Dhabi, we need to cease comparing it to other branch campuses in the area (GMU RAK, MSU Dubai, RIT Dubai, for example) for one very important reason:  the students are likely to be completely different than those at any other American tertiary institution that has pitched a tent in the UAE (and by ‘American university’, I don’t mean American University of Sharjah, American University of Dubai, or American University of Ras Al Khaimah).

Although I don’t have data on the full-time student demographics at other branch campuses, it seems very unlikely that US citizens constitute anything approaching the 37% that they will at NYU Abu Dhabi.  So far, the only information I’ve been able to dig up on the student body at MSU Dubai is the university’s own claim that “MSU Dubai students are from North America to South Africa and beyond. The entering class represented citizens from 24 different countries” (MSU Dubai, n.d.).  To the extent there are Americans studying at RIT Dubai, it may be the case that they visit on a semester basis from the home campus in Rochester.  And as for the erstwhile students at GMU RAK, well…

If any readers have detailed information from reliable sources on the student body make-up at US branch campuses over here, please feel free to comment.  Until then, you’ll have to wait for ExpatAcademic to figure out how to make some discreet phone calls.


Michigan State University Dubai. (n.d.) Frequently asked questions. Retrieved (17 July 2010) from http://dubai.msu.edu/faq

Riley, Naomi S. (1 August 2010). The lure, and the risks, of starting a university. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved (1 August 2010) from http://chronicle.com/article/The-Lurethe-Risks-of/123724/

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