GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
Al Nahyan
First Name:
Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa
Title of Paper:
Does Investment In Higher Education Pay Off? Perceived Altruistic And Economic Benefits Of A College Degree In The United Arab Emirates.
Paper Proposal Text :
In the past decade, the UAE has invested significant resources in building an innovative and excellent higher education infrastructure. Due to the strategic importance of organizational learning in a global economy, the UAE has sought to internationalize higher education by predominantly recruiting universities, faculty and administrators from Western academics (Mills, 2008). Central to a vision of preparing citizens for a leadership role in a global economy, education is funded by the government for all the country’s citizens including higher education.

Consistent with a global trend, young women in the UAE are attending college in record numbers. In 2013, the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research reported that the total number of students in higher education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was 118, 560 (Higher Education 2012-2013). Of this total, 67,226 (57%) were female and 51,334 (43%) were male. Not only are more females enrolled in higher education than males, the actual completion rate for females is even higher. Reflecting global trends in higher education, the UAE National Bureau of Statistics reported that more than twice as many females graduated from higher education than males in 2013.

During this time, there has been a significant shift in the rate and pattern of participation of nationals in higher education. To illustrate, out of 148 countries, the UAE has steadily improved to an overall rank of 40 on The Global Gender Gap Index 2012 (Hausmann, Tyson, Bekhouche, & Zahidi, 2012) which is the highest among the Arab countries. The index measures gender equality by the magnitude of gender based gaps in four areas: economic, political, education and health. In the area of educational attainment, the country is ranked first in the world. Educational attainment indexes the ratio of women to men enrollments in primary, secondary and tertiary levels as well as the female literacy rate to the male literacy rate and demonstrates the UAE’s success in providing women equal access to education.

The striking transformation of the UAE from a developing country to a global economy is reflected in the 2012 Human Development Report, which classifies the UAE as very high in human development. The index is based on a country’s average achievement of life expectancy, knowledge and standard of living. Other countries that are in this category include Norway, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom to name a few. Similarly, based on greater macroeconomic stability and continued improvements in a market economy, the UAE is regarded as an innovation driven economy (Global Competitiveness Report, 2012-2013).

Against the backdrop of these significant improvements in global competitiveness and educational attainment, are there corresponding changes in attitudes and values regarding higher education among nationals, especially regarding higher education for women? The purpose of this research is to examine the trends and perceived benefits of receiving a college education.

This study analyzes the values of male and female students and their parents regarding higher education in the UAE and whether their beliefs are shifting as a result of the remarkable changes taking place in education. Additionally, this research demonstrates the importance of educating nationals in the UAE to the individual, family, workplace and ultimately the economic development of the country.

1. What are the perceived benefits that result from a college degree?
2. Which is more important: altruistic or economic benefits?
3. Are the perceived benefits different for generations: students vs. their parents?
4. Are the perceived benefits different for fathers vs. mothers?
5. Do participants think a higher education is more important for men than women?

The results are based on surveys from over 600 students and their parents for a total of over 1800 surveys from 7 universities in the UAE, which includes both private and public institutions.
The preliminary analysis indicates that for students and parents, the most important benefits of getting a college degree are contributing to the development of the country, making available more career opportunities, improving earning potential and developing leadership ability. While the perceived benefits of getting a college degree did not change from 2011-2015, these benefits were rated as more important as education and income increased. In general, both parents and students rated the value of a higher education as important for men and women. More specific findings were that students and parents perceived the value of higher education to be greater for men than women. Drawing extensively from social network theory, generational and gender differences between students and parents in the perceived value of education are discussed. This study concludes by considering the wider implications for women both in the work place and more generally in society and community development as a result of increasing levels of educational attainment.

Building intellectual capital is a long term and therefore, strategic endeavor. The findings suggest a very high degree of consensus among female students and their parents on the value of an education for both men and women as well as stability over time. In the Higher Education 2012-2013 report from the UAE National Bureau of Statistics, the number of male/female enrollments for nationals in private institutions was 19,652/14,619 or 57.3%/42.7%, respectively. The number of male/female enrollments the previous year was 16,372/14,583 or 52.9%/47.1%. This indicates a significant increase in the number and proportion of males in higher education (z=8.47; p<.0000) over the last two years. This trend is consistent with the findings in this study that not only are there numerous benefits that accrue from a college degree, but parents believe that it is especially important for men to get an education.

Furthermore, the value of a higher education clearly goes beyond monetary and personal returns and encompasses the desire to contribute to the development of the country. In the UAE, the strong familial ties, hierarchical leadership and communication about the importance of an education, and resources to support building a multifaceted higher education system were important in bringing about complex, in-depth change (Kezar, 2014) that is evidenced by the findings in this study. Survey items concerning the role of higher education in development of the country and helping their community received the highest ratings, showing a clear connection between education and citizenship.

This, combined with the increase in higher education enrollments will result in a continued and growing awareness of the benefits of a college degree. And when students attach a greater value on higher education, their academic performance will improve and they will be more likely to complete their degree. The study’s findings clearly show that Emiratis are aware of the value and importance of higher education. Additionally, given the governmental push for nationalization, the study has implications for both education and workplace settings. With the gender boom of women graduating from universities, gender diversity will continue to increase in the workplace especially as female labor force participation improves. This will place importance on managing workplace relations between the genders.