Classes underway at Waterloo's Dubai campus

WaterlooDubai500X173.jpgWATERLOO/DUBAI — After a year of planning, the first 17 students stepped onto the University of Waterloo's new campus in Dubai this month, starting their four year journey starting from the United Arab Emirates and finishing in Canada. in pursuit of degrees in chemical and civil engineering. This miniature Arabic version of UW expects another five students to join the first year, rounding out a student body that comes from Pakistan, Iran, India, Syria, Lebanon and the Emirates.
Students at UW Dubai will spend the first two years in the UAE and complete the final two years in Canada, acquiring work experience in both regions. Waterloo professors will be teaching in the UAE, delivering "the same quality of education in Dubai as do their counterparts in Waterloo," according to a release from the university. “In subsequent years, programs will be offered in financial analysis and risk management, and information technology management."
Dubai is one of seven states that gained independence from Britain in 1971 and came together as UAE. A constitutional monarchy on the Persian Gulf neighbouring Oman and Saudi Arabia, it is ruled by two families (al Nahyan and al Maktoum) whose extraordinary wealth, derived from the world's sixth largest oil reserves, is shared primarily with their clansmen, who count for less than 20% of the UAE population of about 4.5 million.
UW's strategic plan for its sixth decade calls for significant internationalization to ensure graduates are global citizens. Achieving that goal involves sending more students abroad, bringing more international students to campus and expanding UW's presence around the world. The plan specifically calls for the opening of another international campus in Nanjing, China.
"The University of Waterloo looks forward to building a high-quality presence with high-quality partners in the important Gulf region," says Leo Rothenburg, associate vice-president, international. UW's patron in the region is Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE minister of higher education. He couldn't be better connected. Family members include the founder and first president of UAE, the present president, interior minister, foreign affairs minister, public works minister and two deputy prime ministers.
Private correspondence from a teacher recently recruited to the UAE for the first time is instructive about the width of the cultural divide that separates Canada from the Arab principality. "The Emirates . . . are very rich. All of them. They do not need to work and all drive nice cars. They wear a white robe (it is always clean and immaculately ironed) and a head piece with a black band on it. If the band is red it means they are leaders of some sort.
"But then there is the working class, the labourers (Ed note: about 40% of the population). Men, mostly from India. They are separate from everything. They make very little money and are housed in slums. Its painful to see this. I don’t like it, but everyone just says that’s the way it is here, and they accept it.
"The labourers do not shop in the grocery stores. Their food is provided to them at their accommodation. I have heard they are fed well, which is good to know. They send a lot of their earnings home to their family in India. You don't often see the labourers in the shopping centers as they do not live near busy areas, and they are bussed to and from the worksites. All of the modern eccentric architecture in this country (which is abundant) was built [by them]. And they work in the desert heat for hours on end. They are so thin. If the mercury hits 50 the law says no outdoor work, but I hear they very rarely announce that it is actually 50 degrees, so as not to disrupt the flow of greed."

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