Vanderbilt considers proposal to assist in establishing a school of education in Abu Dhabi

Vanderbilt University officials are exploring a proposal from the government of Abu Dhabi to create a school of education that would train teachers, education leaders and researchers to strengthen the country’s K-12 education system.

The proposed school, which would be independently accredited and not a branch campus of Vanderbilt, would be located in Abu Dhabi, the largest and most populated of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.  Across the U.A.E, Emirati citizens make up nearly 20 percent of the total population, with expatriates from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America rounding out the remaining 80 percent.

“This would be a different model compared to what other schools are doing in Abu Dhabi now. It would not be about attracting students to a Vanderbilt branch campus, but rather helping Abu Dhabi transform its society through better trained teachers and school leaders,” Vanderbilt Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty said.

Based on the reputation of Vanderbilt’s highly ranked Peabody College of education and human development, the Abu Dhabi Education Council approached Vanderbilt in May 2010 with a proposal to build a national education school that would be a keystone in the emirate’s plan to completely reform its K-12 school system.

Since the initial proposal, McCarty and Vice Provost for Faculty Tim McNamara as well as members of the Peabody faculty and administration have traveled to Abu Dhabi to discuss details of the plan. More recently, Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos made the trip and met with government officials including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan as part of a fact-finding effort to determine the viability of the plan. A decision on whether to move forward with the proposed school will not be determined until further deliberation and analysis take place.

The school would be independently accredited and its curriculum primarily taught by professors hired specifically for the newly created institution. Students would be recruited primarily from the U.A.E. and graduates of the school would receive degrees from the new institution, not from Vanderbilt.

If Vanderbilt proceeds with the proposal, the entire cost of planning, implementing and operating the school would be borne by Abu Dhabi. The degree programs and courses would be designed by Vanderbilt faculty to align with the K-12 school system in Abu Dhabi.

The partnership would be similar to a recent agreement reached by Yale University and the National University of Singapore to create a new institution called Yale-NUS College.

McCarty said consideration of the proposal has been purposefully slow and deliberate.  The Abu Dhabi government has promised that if Vanderbilt decides to proceed with the proposal, the faculty and students of the new school would enjoy the same standards of academic freedom as their counterparts on the Vanderbilt campus. Vanderbilt would be closely involved in the implementation to ensure standards of academic freedom and expression are met.

“We are working to assure that we can be successful in fulfilling our values and mission in an environment that incorporates the highest academic and professional standards and encourages open discourse, tolerance and respect for others,” McCarty said.