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UAE businessman aims to reduce online course stigma with MIT initiative

UAE businessman aims to reduce online course stigma with MIT initiative

The programme, funded by the $1.1bn Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation, aims to provide free online education across the region

Billion dollar philanthropic initiative the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, aims to reduce the stigma surrounding online courses in the region through a new programme in partnership with Massachusetts Institute of technology, its chairman Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said on Tuesday.

The $1.1bn foundation, which began operations last month, has plans to provide 15,000 Middle Eastern students with science, technology, engineering and mathematics scholarships over the next 10 years using one third of the Al Ghurair family’s vast fortune.

The partnership with MIT will make two new programmes available for potential students to study online from the 2017 academic year as part of a credential dubbed the ‘MicroMaster’s’.

It will be available for free to all potential students across the Arab World, including those at Syrian refugee camps and on the Gaza strip, Al Ghurair told reporters.

“Launching this programme will force every institution and government to change their acceptance of online courses and start differentiating between world class degrees and others,” he said, describing the initiative as “disruptive” to existing education systems in the region.

“The education industry will change and the employer also will need to change. What we launched today, open learning programmes with the number one university in the world, will force every institution and every government entity to rethink about the online certification and online degrees,” Al Ghurair later told Gulf Business

“I will force them to rethink and segregate the good ones from the bad ones and maybe some institutions will be created to accredit these online universities and it will evolve.”

The first MicroMaster’s will focus on data science and management, a subject not yet available in the region, with the second still to be decided.

Participants in the programme must complete five individual online courses to earn an MITx credential.

Those that complete this process will then be able to apply to compete a Master’s degree at MIT or another institution that can be funded by an Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation scholarship.

Al Ghurair said “discipline and determination” would be needed to pass the online programme, which will be available in English only.

“I hope we get a million applicants,” he said, but “few will make it, it’s not easy, this is MIT.”

He said the foundation was targeting the 15-30 age group but people of any age could potentially access the course materials.

Read: $1.1bn Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation to partner with world’s top universities

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