A group of media industry experts met at the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) with President Rob Whelan and his top academic team on February 2 to advise on a proposed Master of Mass Media and Communications (MMEC) degree. UOWD is seeking accreditation for MMEC from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The Communications Master's degree will have specializations in journalism, public relations, media studies, and professional writing.
Media experts who attended the lunch meeting included representatives of major local companies, international public relations agencies, the Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA), local and foreign journalists, professional writers, and managers of communications businesses. They were unanimous in confirming the need for such a graduate program in the UAE.
Rebecca Hill, Executive Director of MEPRA, said, "There is an obvious gap in the market for post graduate courses in communications management and related areas. This gives practitioners a chance to sharpen their skills and take their professional development to a new level."
Sana Bagersh, Editor of Abu Dhabi Tempo magazine and CEO of BrandMoxie marketing agency, agreed. "This program could raise standards in journalism and media studies, in the UAE and the Gulf, especially if it is able to integrate local perspectives and address the social and cultural dynamics of the region."
Aida Al Busaidy, Manager - Internal Communications & Outreach for Masdar, was especially concerned about Arabic media. "The issue of educating our youth in the mass communications and media field should also focus on how they understand the Arabic media scene," she said, and added, "There is a disconnect on how English and Arabic media function, and we need to get a balanced and fair education brought to students of this program."
UOWD, the oldest foreign university in the UAE, has been operating in Dubai since 1993, with Bachelor's and Master's degrees in business and IT. UOWD is also offering a doctoral program in business, the first accredited DBA program in the UAE.
According to Professor Whelan, UOWD is now expanding its offerings to the liberal arts with MMEC and an upcoming Master of International Studies. These new programs must be accredited by the Ministry before any courses can be taught. "UOWD is not a branch campus of another university," Whelan explained. "We are licensed by the Ministry as an independent institution in the UAE, and we submit all new programs to the Ministry for international benchmarking and UAE accreditation before we start teaching. This ensures that our degree programs are of high quality and meet a national need in the UAE."