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INSIDE 46 | In Italy, a Dysfunctional University System Sinks Deeper Into Decay 49 | In London, a Working-Class University Wrestles With Change
NYU-Abu Dhabi Behaves Like Careful Guest in Foreign Land NYU-AD takes care not to engage in local issues in the UAE and says it’s not part of its mission abroad by Ursula lindsey
Conclave: NYU-AD campus is existing in a ‘bubble’ separated from local issues
EduTech July 2012
eah Reynolds is the kind of student New York University and the government of Abu Dhabi hoped for five years ago, when they began an ambitious partnership to create a model of academic excellence in the Persian Gulf emirate. Smart, articulate and thoughtful, Ms Reynolds, a sophomore, is editor of the online campus newspaper. Yet she is keenly aware of the limits of her position, both as a student and as a representative of the institution. “We’re not here to cause trouble,” says Ms Reynolds, who is studying social research and public policy at NYU-Abu Dhabi. “Students want to be in this part of the world. And we’re not repressed.” Many people on this campus, from the chancellor on down, describe themselves as guests of the United Arab Emirates, and like guests they are mindful of staying in their host’s good graces. But critics say this mindfulness turns foreign branch campuses in the region into exceptional enclaves, fearful of engaging with contentious local issues. In interviews with over a dozen current and former educators in the Emirates, the insularity of foreign branch campuses was a recurrent theme. Several of NYU-Abu Dhabi’s own staff and students describe the campus as ‘a bubble’. Some critics complain that it and other foreign universities have stood by in silence as authorities in the UAE have cracked down on freedom of speech in the wake of the Arab Spring.