This article first appeared in English Language Gazette, October 2008
FOREIGN ACADEMICS teaching on English-medium degrees at a university in the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) have rejected a pay offer significantly below that being offered to Emirati staff (nationals of the UAE). According to UAE English language newspaper The National, Zayed University offered expatriate staff a 5 per cent pay rise, while Emirati academic staff are to receive a 29 per cent increase. Zayed University, founded in 1998, recently gained accreditation from the US Middle States Commission on Higher Accreditation, making it the first UAE federal higher education institution to be accredited by this body.
The National reports that there have already been resignations at UAE universities by expatriate staff over pay, and that the Federal National Council was warned at the beginning of 2008 of this trend. Minister of education Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak then advised the council that academics were leaving universities as pay rises were failing to keep pace with inflation, now at over 11 per cent.
A Gazette source in the UAE said that annual salaries for native English-speaking staff at some universities had doubled in less than two years, following a major walk-out by Canadian staff.
However, salaries for Emiratis have risen even more over that period.
In addition to the 5 per cent on offer, expats will receive a separate 400 Dirhams (£60) a month pay award to offset ‘the impact of inflation’, backdated to June 2008.
The Gazette’s sources in the UAE pointed out that expat staff have their
accommodation, airfares and school fees for their children paid by their employers under a separate arrangement, which does somewhat reduce the pay differential with Emiratis, who do not enjoy these perks. But the same source reported that there’s a policy of ‘Emiratisation’ of the universities, and claimed that non-Emiratis are passed over for promotion in favour of locals with insufficient qualifications and experience.
While the Gazette couldn’t find any specific reference to ethnicity in its
guidelines for accreditation, the Middle States Commission’s recent conference included talks on best practice in ‘changing demographics… issues of retention… enrolment
of men and women of colour, the need to adjust the curriculum in the face of an
increasingly global society’, ‘successful efforts to develop a diverse campus environment
’ and ‘a framework for encouraging diversity’.
Expat academics who talked to The National described the 5 per cent pay award as ‘a slap in the face’ and ‘absolutely ridiculous’.
Sheikh Nayhan, president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, said he was looking into problems around pay awards for academic staff, and said: ‘Hopefully there will be a solution to this issue soon.’