09 February, 2006

Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Zayed University, candidate for accreditation by Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Here's what MSCHE has to say (PDF) about academic freedom:
The interdependence of educational institutions and their academic freedom are essential to the quality and integrity of all education. Teaching and learning require free and full exposure to information and ideas, the right to question or dissent, and opportunities to study, research, and debate, free of political pressure. The academy requires that inquiry and analysis must be guided by evidence and ethics, unfettered by political intervention.

A college or university must be sensitive to the conditions of the society in which it exists, but it must also be free to determine how to be most responsive and responsible. Political interference in the affairs of an educational institution presents a threat to its freedom and effectiveness. Direct intervention by elected or appointed officials, political parties, or pressure groups in the selection of faculty, the determination of curricula, textbooks, course content, or in admissions or retention policies, injects factors which are often inimical to the fulfillment of an institution’s mission.
MSCHE also states (PDF):
Academic and intellectual freedom gives one the right and obligation as a scholar to examine data and to question assumptions. It also obliges instructors to present all information objectively because it asserts the student’s right to know all pertinent facts and information. A particular point of view may be advanced, based upon complete access to the facts or opinions that underlie the argument, as long as the right to further inquiry and consideration remains unabridged.

To restrict the availability or to limit unreasonably the presentation of data or opinions is to deny academic freedom. The effective institution addresses diversity of opinion with openness and balance.


Anonymous said...

So basically they're saying there's no academic freedom in the UAE, and without academic freedom there's no accreditaiton?

Anonymous said...

Hm. I guess this is hwat many colleges are up against in the emirates since many are trying to get accredited with western organizations.

secretdubai said...

The problem for the universities is more the brainwashed, rote-taught local students they intake, than the higher authorities here.

When you are brought up your entire life in an atmosphere of forced respect for authority figures, and have it endlessly drummed into you that to think for yourself is dangerous and even immoral, it is fairly understandable that you would freak once something happened that challenged your deep-indoctrinated values.

And that's why the prissy little bitches that got this poor woman and her superior sacked will never realise that they - the students - are the real losers. They had a chance to experience free, open debate but they threw it back in the faces of the academics that were trying to help stretch and open their minds.

Jassim said...

@ SD it wasnt the time for that anarchist cow to start promoting her ideals. Perhaps in another country it would of been acceptable where that kind of debate is normal. But not here in the UAE. Not yet.

David Keymer said...

I understand why people feel upset over this issue but I feel they use the wrong analogy in two respects: (1) The closest analogue to free speech practices in the United States should be to religious colleges which do place limits --doctrinal in nature-- on expression, and this is tolerated as it applies to the realm of faith. U.S. accrediting agencies cut these colleges some slack because their purpose is to educate students within that one doctrine. (2) Secondly, in Islamic thought and practice, the state is not separated from faith. Indeed, if I remember correctly, depicting the Prophet Muhammad is a crime in the UAE.

This is aside from issues of consideration and propriety. I can think of many ways of portraying Jesus, for example, that would be highly offensive to many, many practicing Christians. I wouldn't do that, and it has nothing to do with my freedom of speech.

It is fatally easy to become heated on issues like this one. I know the two people who were let go at Zayed University -- they are fine, good-willed people. But it is a crime to depict Muhammad like this and there is a flat religious prescription against doing it so it shouldn't have been wholly a surprise that the teacher got in trouble. As much as one can tell from a distance, I'm sure she meant no harm. But harm she did.

John B. Chilton said...

David - Thank you for enriching this conversation.

The analogy to US religious colleges is a useful one to consider.

On your second point - faith and the state - aren't you pointing out there is no US analogy?

The broader question is why a foreign university should want to pursue US accreditation based upon US standards. Why buy into US standards and not develop your own?

David Keymer said...

Currently, US accreditation is the accepted standard for quality in academic institutions. That may change with time, but it means that a foreign institution seeking accreditation will probably seek US accreditation.

It's not for me to say why US accreditation is the goal of Zayed U. My experience there was that seeking US accreditation was very positive for the university: it provided definable goals and thus helped direct efforts for improvement.

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