The Dubai Campus and Transparency

David Porreca, FAUW President

This blog follows up on correspondence received by FAUW’s Board of Directors regarding a bullet point in the 29 January blog posting entitled “To Provost or Not to Provost,” that related to the closure of UW’s Dubai campus.


Thanks to discussions undertaken with interested parties, I can clarify what I have identified as the key unifying concern relating to UW’s involvement in the Dubai satellite campus.

In essence, at the time of its opening, the Dubai campus was presented to the campus community generally, and to the bodies of collegial governance in particular, as a fait accompli, with little possibility for any feedback to have any material impact on whether UW should get involved.  Moreover, the satellite campus was presented without a publically released, clear business plan that could be used to weigh properly the potential benefits and opportunity costs of getting involved in such an enterprise.
In other words, there was a drastic lack of transparencythat shrouded the initial opening of the Dubai campus from the critical scrutiny that may (or may not) have revealed the concerns that eventually led to its closure.
Speaking of which, the closure of the Dubai campus came as a surprise to many, even though some cheered for understandable reasons – ones I raised in the aforementioned bullet point from the earlier blog post. As of May 2012, UW’s President was announcing publicly that “it’s not a question of whether Dubai is sinking, but how fast it can swim!”  Not six months later, it was closed.  Rationales for the closure were made public, but apparently without consultation with all of the immediately concerned parties, nor with the broader campus community whose operations will be affected substantially.  Again, a lack of transparencyreigned over the decision-making that led to the closure, leading to negative consequences for several interested parties. 

The University of Waterloo must be willing to stand by its commitment to transparency in deed, not just in word. Consequently, proper consultation must happen in the future to ensure that large-scale initiatives (e.g., satellite campuses in overseas locations) that have a significant impact on the university’s operations will not be undertaken without all stakeholders providing public agreement to a publicly released plan.

One thought on “The Dubai Campus and Transparency

  1. In the interest of transparency, we are posting our original letter to you.— University of Waterloo (UAE) Faculty, Staff and StudentsFebruary 10, 2013To: David Porreca, Presidentcc: Aimée Morrison, Vice-PresidentGeorge Freeman, Past PresidentSteve Furino, TreasurerRoydon Fraser, DirectorGreat Kroeker, DirectorEva Lau, DirectorMetin Renksizbulut, DirectorTrefford Simpson, DirectorFrank Zorzitto, DirectorRe: Your January 29, 2013 Blog 'To Provost or Not to Provost'We the faculty, staff and students at the Waterloo UAE campus would like to voice our opposition to comments related to the UAE campus in your January 29, 2013 blog. We do not appreciate your cheering the announced closure of Waterloo UAE and find it ill-informed and offensive. The FAUW needs to reflect the views and opinions of the membership. At the very least, you could have contacted someone (faculty, staff or students) from the Dubai campus to hear our voice. Real lives of faculty, staff and students have been affected without appreciating the significant efforts that were made. Calling the campus a ‘debacle’ and saying ‘we told you so’ is unbecoming of the FAUW president. Furthermore, it denigrates the dedication and work of our students, faculty, staff, partners and our supporters both in the UAE and on the main campus.The University of Waterloo was a name hardly known in the UAE four years ago, but steady, incremental growth has taken place and its profile has been raised considerably. Waterloo UAE is an extremely rich and diverse campus. In excess of a 1000 applications resulting in over 260 students from more than 30 countries were recruited into our programs. 43 different UW faculty members from 4 faculties taught at Waterloo UAE. 37 main campus co-op students worked on campus along with 14 staff and 140 co-op companies from the region recruited our students. This is hardly indicative of a ‘debacle’; indeed it lends credibility to those who encouraged Waterloo to undertake more international collaborations. Peter L. DouglasDirector On behalf of Faculty, Staff and Students at Waterloo UAE

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