MIT, United Arab Emirates Offer Free Courses in Middle East

(Photo: Jeffrey Betts, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Jeffrey Betts, Creative Commons)

A new collaboration between MIT and United Arab Emirates' Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education will allow Arab students from all backgrounds to access education online from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last month, the Ghurair family donated $1.14 billion, equal to a third of their wealth, to the foundation. The scale of the funding is similar to the one pledged by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The first collaboration with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education will sponsor the development of two new MicroMaster's programs.

The first program offered will be in the field of data science and management, and will focus on the training statistics-enabled professionals and will equip them with the necessary skills to understand the rapidly-increasing global challenges.

The core features of the second program are yet to be jointly determined, but it will focus on STEM subjects such as science, technology, and mathematics.

According to the sponsors, the program is the first of its kind. It aims to provide online education for 15,000 over the next decade, writes Paul Crompton of the Al Arabiya. The target group includes young people who cannot afford to study or who lack the time or a passport to leave UAE. Even students without a previous degree will have access to the program. They will have the opportunity to continue their education at renowned institutions worldwide.

Both programs will start from the 2017 academic year. They will be free of charge to all prospective students from Arab countries, including those in Syrian refugee camps and on the Gaza Strip, Al Ghurair told Robert Anderson from Gulf Business.

In a region high in conflicts and low in learning, such an opportunity is much needed. More than half of the current Middle East's population of 370 million are under 25. A majority of those young people are unemployed and do not have access to education.

Abdul Aziz al-Ghurair, Chairman of the Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation for Education, the UAE conglomerate's charitable fund, commented that Arab youth has already lost a significant amount of precious time. The foundation aims to focus on Arab applicants aged 15 to 30, although it says people of any age or nationality could eventually gain access to the courses.

The collaboration with MIT has another important goal, too. It aims to help overcome the regional stigma – that online courses are worth less than traditional education. Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair commented:

"Nobody will challenge an MIT course.This program will force every institution and government in the region to change their acceptance of online courses."

Sanjay Sarma, vice president for open learning at MIT, added:

"The new MicroMaster's is an innovative and important next step in MIT's engagement with learners worldwide. Through modular offerings and credentials for the digital age, as well as through blending online and on-site pathways, it offers new opportunities for lifelong learning."

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