The recent news in a daily local paper revealing that staff members in a well-known university in Dubai were involved in fraudulent practices in processing new student applications is shocking, but not particularly surprising.
‘Fixing’ students’ results to meet application standards is probably rife in many higher education institutions. Higher education institutions that have attained accreditation status from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) have to adhere to English Language entry levels set by the Ministry.
IELTS (International English Language Testing System) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) examinations are recognized as the most prestigious among standardized English Language tests. IELTS and TOEFL centres have blossomed into hugely successful businesses here in the UAE due to MOHESR requirements.
School leavers who fall into the category of ‘non-native speakers of English’ due to their ethnicity or nationality have to attain a certain IELTS or TOEFL score to get into universities. Many school leavers from both the UAE and from other Middle East countries pay hundreds of dirhams to attend IELTS or TOEFL classes and to take the examination. If they do not successfully obtain the minimum score, they have to pay again for retakes. Thus, some students who become exasperated at paying repeatedly for classes and retakes may stoop to giving bribes to ‘willing’ staff to falsify results so that they can gain entry into their selected courses/programmes.
In many institutions too, students who have not attained minimum English Language scores are allowed entry but have to complete a pre-degree foundation programme to improve language competencies. This is usually an additional fee to the course fees and could add a semester, a year or more to the whole duration of a student’s undergraduate studies. Thus, in such scenarios, students who want to go directly into the Bachelor’s programme might be ‘forced’ to submit false documents just to get in.
In the current political upheavals affecting many Middle Eastern countries, students are forced to flee their countries and flock to countries like the UAE to continue their higher education. Many of these individuals have a profound need to stay here and pursue their studies so it’s not surprising that some students may be desperate enough to pay bribes just to obtain that precious university place.