George Mason to Open First International Campus in the United Arab Emirates

Posted: February 28, 2005 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jeremy Lasich

George Mason will open its fourth campus in fall 2006 in Ras-Al-Khaimah (RAK), located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The first cohort will include approximately 200 students, with a goal of growing to more than 2,000 students in the next 10 to 15 years. Campus construction will begin immediately; a signing ceremony is being held today in RAK.

The majority of the project will be funded by the Ras-Al-Khaimah Human Development Foundation, a collaboration between the RAK government and a private company, ETA Ascon Group, while George Mason manages the operation.

“The new campus strengthens Mason’s commitment to international education and outreach, and will give us the ability to serve international students in a new way,” says President Alan Merten. “It will open up opportunities for our American students, particularly those involved in conflict resolution, policy studies, Middle Eastern studies, and Arabic language courses.”

Initial programs on the campus will come from the College of Nursing and Health Science, the School of Information Technology and Engineering, the School of Management, and the English Language Institute. The programs were selected based on Mason’s experience in the region and the demand of disciplines, according to Provost Peter Stearns.

In its first year, the new campus will include a computer facility, language laboratory, and basic science laboratories. More advanced facilities, including additional computer facilities, will be constructed in the second year, with nursing laboratories and civil engineering laboratories projected for the third year. A library will also be part of the complex.

“The United Arab Emirates provides a significant setting for international activities, based on the openness, dynamic growth, and the advantages of strategic location,” says Stearns. “The willingness of the RAK government to provide an international ‘free trade’ zone for an American university represents a significant opportunity in itself. The new Mason operation will extend the university’s already noteworthy reputation and activity in this region, while providing exciting new possibilities as well.”

As the George Mason-RAK combination achieves its objectives gradually and the students in the region gain confidence in the institution at RAK, more programs can be added, leading to a larger number enrollment on the campus, according to Stearns.

The initial intake and the increases envisioned are based on the fact that Mason in RAK will be the first of its kind in that region—-a campus managed academically by a reputable American university with full involvement in the Middle East. George Mason is expected to recruit students from India, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, among other countries.

According to Stearns, there will be several benefits to the university through this agreement, including the opportunity for contact with student groups in the Persian Gulf. This could lead to some direct recruitment of students for programs in Virginia—undergraduates coming to the United States for a year of study or for master’s degree work. The campus will also greatly enhance Middle Eastern and global student programs on the Virginia campuses, providing opportunities to send students for semester programs or short courses on language, regional issues, global economic, and cultural operations from a different vantage point. Some faculty members will also have the chance to travel abroad to teach in RAK.

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