Archive for the ‘Employment’ Category

Any guys named ‘Sean’ out there?

If so, according to the Chronicle’s job list, Zayed University is looking for YOU!!

Sean, College of Education

Yeah, I know it’s nitpicky, but I couldn’t resist.  I mean, I can overlook a typo in the text, but in the main job heading?  C’mon.


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Just like the US

Something during my regular morning crawl around the ether made me have another look at the HCT career opportunities — all 75 of them.  And I’ll bet there will be a few more once the existing faculty lines up some new jobs.

But I don’t personally have any reason to dislike the Higher Colleges of Technology (yet), so I’m going to offer my help by doing a bit of editing for them – gratis.  I’ll begin with the description of an HCT career on the page titled Working at the HCT:

Here’s the original:

The working environment here is similar to what you would encounter in any major western educational institution. The typical day will depend on which position you are in and which program. We are open from Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday as our weekend. Teaching can take place between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and you may work different shifts depending on the classes you teach. Faculty usually teach 20 periods per week and are expected to be in the college for at least 8 hours per day. One of our aims is to teach good work habits to students and another reason is that students will often come to faculty desks to seek help. Non-teaching staff generally work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Higher Colleges of Technology, 2010)

And here’s my edited version:

The working environment here is NOTHING LIKE what you would encounter in any major western educational institution. The typical day will depend on which position you are in and which program. We are open from Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday as our weekend. Teaching can take place between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and you may work different shifts depending on the classes you teach. Faculty usually teach 20 periods per week, more than twice the load at a western university, and are expected to be in the college for at least 8 hours per day, which should elicit a hearty laugh from any western academic . One of our aims is to teach good work habits to students and another reason is that students will often come to faculty desks to seek help and the concept of making an appointment in advance and keeping it eludes them. Non-teaching staff generally work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

C’mon, HCT folks — I appreciate your printing the working conditions, but don’t tell me they’re what I’d find in any other western educational institution — unless, of course, you’re talking about a level far below that of tertiary.


Higher Colleges of Technology. (2010). Working at the HCT. Retrieve (21 Nov 2010) from http://recruit.hct.ac.ae/WebForms/working_at_the_hct.aspx

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Admittedly, this post is feeding off second hand information from the rumour mill — of which I get bits and pieces from individuals who I’m never going to name.  The reason I’m writing it at all is because of three recent bits of information happened to converge:

  1. One of the search strings on today’s blog stats was “XYZ University dishonest.”
  2. A faculty member at XYZ University suddenly departed prior to the start of the Fall 2010 term.
  3. Another blog stated the following with respect to XYZ University (this particular piece of text is no longer to be found on the web, but it was there this morning):

If you were thinking to go there and teach, don’t bother: they treat academics with smirky suspicion, and they do not follow up with promises to pay for courses you teach.

Draw your own conclusions.

One might think that this bad press on XYZ University is without basis. Perhaps.  But in a land where the rules change and contracts are re-interpreted at management’s whim, these three little bits would make me think twice before accepting that job offer at KUSTAR XYZ University.

Note to Suede Oasis:  Yes, I realise this is yet another post on compensation (or perhaps lack thereof!), but when the issue on the table is whether or not faculty are being remunerated for the work that they do, I question the value of reporting on academic substance at all.


Removed by EA

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Don’t forget to do your homework

As the Fall 2010 academic term nears, I expect most fresh hires have already arrived in the desert and are busy sorting out their new lives.  And judging by my blog stats, one of the things they’re doing is googling madly for information on salary packages and housing allowances at a number of local universities.

If you’ve already accepted a job offer and have been brave enough to see it through, this is rather like doing your homework the day after your report card was sent — in other words, a little on the late side.  But there’s another possibility:  you’re already here and have gotten a last-minute offer from XYZ University because some other newbie didn’t show (perhaps a natural result of having done his homework).  In the first case, I’m afraid Expatacademic can’t help you out — the information you’re looking for has been here for a while and if you’ve accepted an offer without doing your research, I question the likelihood of your success in academia.  In the second case, however, I refer you to previous posts in the Compensation and Employment categories.

Good luck.  Those of you who haven’t done your homework are gonna need it.

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Jobs galore at HCT (if you want them)

A quick check on HCT’s career opportunities page reveals postings for 45 faculty positions.  Forty-five. That seems like a big number, especially when you consider that we’re looking at just six weeks before the start of the Fall 2010 term.  And an even bigger number when you have a look at some recent commentary here in the ether on the Higher Colleges of Technology (and in particular, the Abu Dhabi Women’s College):

Dave’s ESL Café:  Sackings in HCT Abu Dhabi

Anonymous blog:  Welcome to ADWC!

Anonymous blog:  HCT sucks!

Now I have no idea who most of these posters are, or whether their grumblings are justified, but have a look at a few of the comments and then take this simple quiz:

___ I am now more likely to apply to HCT for an academic position.

___ I am now less likely to apply to HCT for an academic position.

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Last month I came across a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle (actually a reprint from the blog Crosscurrents from KALW):

Exporting public school teachers to Abu Dhabi?

The story doesn’t exactly fit in with the higher education theme of this blog, but it serves to remind me of a couple of financial matters:  the comparison of tertiary to non-tertiary salary packages and the oft-mentioned ‘tax free’ lure.  I’ll take them one at a time.

1.  Salary packages

Baba’s (9 June 2010) write-up includes a breakdown of the salary and benefits offered by TeachAway (the preeminent global teacher placement organisation for elementary through high school).  Here’s what TeachAway is offering certified teachers with bachelor degrees:

Monthly Salary
12,300-20,400AED, depending on experience and credentials
(approx. $4000-$6300CAD or $3350-$5500US)

Yearly air ticket provided for teacher, spouse and 3 dependents

Working Hours
35-40 hours/week, 5 days a week

Provided, inclusive of furniture allowance

Usually from end-June until mid-August;
plus all National holidays

Health Insurance
Covered by employer

Not bad, eh?  Unfortunately, the picture starts looking bad when we compare these numbers to the offers given by many universities to holders of doctorates.  A couple of months ago, I posted some information on the compensation package given to an assistant professor at KUSTAR:

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)

Housing situation aside, note that the basic monthly salary for an assistant professor is at the LOW end of the basic monthly salary for, say, a third-grade math teacher.  I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something just a little bit wrong with that picture.

2.  The tax-free lure

Baba’s blog post includes the misleading line “And (drum roll) the salary is TAX-FREE.”

This is both not true and true.  Considering that the audience of the article seems to be laid-off teachers in the state of California, we can assume that mostly US citizens will be reading these words.  If you’re one of them, let me explain a little further:

The United States taxation system is, rather anomalously, based on citizenship (or resident alien status), not residence.  That means that no matter where you are in the world, and no matter where you earn your money, if you have a US passport or a green card, you owe Uncle Sam.  The fact that the UAE levies no income tax on its residents has absolutely no bearing on this fact.  This is the reason that Baba’s tax-free statement is not true.

On the other hand, taxpayers who are not residing in the US are eligible for an earned income exclusion ($91,400 in 2009) and exclusions or deductions on foreign housing amounts (IRS, n.d.).  Further, employees working abroad for non-US companies are not obligated to pay social security taxes.  Since the average teacher’s income (including housing and other benefits) is not likely to exceed that $91,400 by much, effectively no (or little) taxes will be owed.  So in this sense, Baba’s statement is true, but the canny job seeker should not assume that his salary is completely tax free without consulting an expert who is savvy in expat taxation issues.

Aside from making me angry, these two issues (the salary comparison and the misleading tax statement) have something in common:  they both serve to remind any job seeker to do his homework before signing on the dotted line.  Find out what the going rate is for education professionals in Abu Dhabi.  Consult a tax professional.  Talk to your prospective employer.

Unless, of course, you groove on the idea of making less money than someone with academic credentials that don’t hold a candle to yours, or on the idea of a nasty tax surprise a year or so down the road.


Baba, H. (9 June 2010). Exporting public school teachers to Abu Dhabi? Crosscurrents from KALW. Retrieved (6 July 2010) from http://kalwnews.org/blogs/hanababa/2010/06/09/exporting-public-school-teachers-abu-dhabi_407203.html

Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Foreign earned income exclusion. Retrieved (6 July 2010) from http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=97130,00.html

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in your contract, that is.

Here you are, ready to sign on the dotted line (yes, I read the search strings used to find this site and I know that many of you are, as I’ve done, looking for informative scraps of information that will help you make the final decision about the offer that may bring you out to the desert for the Fall 2010 term).  And here I am, your friendly neighbourhood whistleblower (or tell-it-like-it-really-is person), ready to help out.

(You may be thinking that I’m on some sort of vindictive rant and that anything I say here may be happily discounted.  That’s not true.  But I AM telling the truth — a truth you likely won’t be hearing from that smiling face in the HR department. What you do with this truth as you contemplate moving thousands of miles from home to a job that may ultimately result in the early demise of your academic career is up to you.  But I ain’t tellin’ no lies.  And I defy anyone who works here in the desert to find fault with the facts.)

Last month I sent up a few salary package comparisons based on information I’ve collected from various forums and articles (Money money money, 13 May 2010). It’s now time to talk about the bits and pieces of those salary packages in more detail:

  • The base salary
    This is, well, rather what it sounds like — your salary not including any other benefits or allowances.  It’s relevant for a couple of reasons.  First of all, this is the basis on which your end-of-service benefit will be calculated, the rule being one month’s base salary for every full year worked.  Second, it’s the number you should be comparing to your current salary.  While you might be tempted to look at the whole package, thinking ‘Holy numbers, Batman — an academic salary of 400,000 Dhs!’ —  don’t do that.  Look at the base and assess it by itself.
  • Annual leave
    This is very likely going to be stated in terms of calendar days, not working days.  That means that while you are on annual leave, any weekends or government holidays that fall within that period are counted as leave.  (I know, you’re probably wondering how that works when normal weekends aren’t counted as leave, but I have no good answer to give you.)  Just keep in mind that ’45 calendar days’ does NOT translate to nine weeks of leave, but rather six weeks.
    Now for the fun part.  You might be thinking that you will have a choice as to when to take those six weeks of leave.  Well, surprise, surprise, that may not necessarily be the case.  Some institutions will force you to take leave during the time between semesters (whether or not you have course prep to do).  Some will stipulate that annual leave must be taken during certain periods of the summer when the university is not in session — whether you happen to be teaching summer courses or not.  Some will change their policies overnight, without consulting you, and leaving you with no recourse.
  • Tickets ‘home’
    They say home is where the heart is, but over here, home depends on the colour of your passport.  You may have grown up and gone through years of graduate school in sunny California, gotten yourself a prized green card, and paid your taxes like a good boy, but if you’ve got a Syrian passport, guess where you’ll be going on your leave?  That’s right.  It’s not that you can’t go back to LA, it’s just that you won’t be supplied with a ticket for that destination.  Don’t have any family in Syria?  Oh well, that’s too bad. But wait, there’s MORE:
    Remember those business class tickets for you and your family members? Well, I’m sorry to say it, but you may not be flying up front after all.  Some institutions don’t actually supply the tickets, but rather cash-in-lieu — and I guarantee you that the cap on the cash amount, in some cases, will not come close to the actual cost of the tickets (especially since you’ll be taking your annual leave during high season).  Check on this with the smiling gal from HR.  Then check again.  Actually, there’s no real reason to bother, because the policy might change.
  • Your children’s education
    If you’re seriously contemplating a move over here with spouse and kids, you’ve (I hope) been doing a little homework on the cost and availability of schooling.  And if you have, you know it’s expensive — particularly for those coveted positions in western-curriculum schools.  If you haven’t, know this:  the annual cost per child can easily reach 40,000 Dhs (and beyond).  That’s probably about two and a half times the base monthly salary you’ve been offered.   Fortunately, universities provide an education allowance for the young’uns.  Unfortunately, there may be a few suprises down the line.
    First of all, you need to find out when your employer-to-be is going to start providing that educational allowance.  Three years old?  Four?  Five?  The difference could mean watching a few months’ worth of your hard earned dirhams disappear.  Second, whatever the starting age is, get it in writing. Then get it in writing again.  Ask what will happen if the policy changes after you’ve signed in blood on that dotted line.  And if you’re thinking that this sort of bait-and-switch will NEVER, ever happen to you, think again.
  • Allowances
    Ah, those lovely allowances.  The ones that make the offer for Assistant Professor of X look like a dream come true.  First off, the relocation allowance.  You should be getting one, so don’t take no for an answer. And it should be enough to cover bringing over what you need, as well as bringing back all of your belongings once you’ve woken up from the dream.  Second, do make sure that the same amount of freight is provided for on both ends — an allowance to bring 2,000 lbs of freight over here isn’t worth very much if the allowance to ship it back only covers half of it.
  • Housing
    The word on the street is that universities provide housing.  Not a housing ‘allowance’, but the actual place to live, dwelling, edifice, apartment, whateveryouwannacallit. Well, it appears that all of them do, save one — KUSTAR.  That institution will provide you with an extra cash allowance on top of your basic salary every month to cover housing, but YOU need to go out and find it (don’t worry, perhaps Smiling HR Gal will give you a list of estate agents as found on page whatever of this year’s Explorer Guide). And then you need to pay for it.  In two checks per year — at the most (rent here is paid on a yearly basis, up front — if you still don’t get it, think of it this way:  you’ll be shelling out upwards of $25,000 before you can move in and writing a six-month post-dated check for the same amount). For anyone just out of graduate school, that rent-up-front policy here in Abu Dhabi probably isn’t going to work very well, so be prepared to ask for a loan from any employer who offers cash instead of the real deal (or from the bank when that employer tells you to get bent), and then be prepared to put on the golden handcuffs:  if you’ve got a loan for housing that had to be paid up front, it’s going to make it extremely difficult to leave.  And by ‘extremely difficult’ I mean something along the lines of a midnight drive to the airport and no chances of ever returning.

This all may seem pretty frightening to some of you.  To others, it may seem wildly exaggerated.  Here’s what I know:  there are good folks over here who, had they known the fine print prior to signing, very likely would have thought twice about it.

If you’re brave enough to push forward, welcome, again, to

Academics in the Desert

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