George Mason U. Campus in Persian Gulf Nation Faces a Salary Glitch

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Jun 20 13:45:22 UTC 2006

George Mason U. Campus in Persian Gulf Nation Faces a Salary Glitch

George Mason University's first overseas campus, in Ras Al Khaimah, part
of the United Arab Emirates, hit a snag last week, when its academic and
support staff members did not receive their end-of-year pay. As of Monday,
they were still waiting for their June salaries, accrued vacation days,
and money for airline tickets home. George Mason's provost, Peter N.
Stearns, who was traveling in Russia on Monday, said through a spokesman
that the payments had been delayed by a "routine" audit that was being
carried out by local authorities, in the Emirates. Mr. Stearns said
employees would be getting their checks "very, very soon."

This past academic year, the campus had only about 30 students, all in an
English-language program. Although the staff pay was overdue by only a few
days, Edward Meyricke, an Australian and one of only three faculty
members, said several people had had to postpone travel plans. Moreover,
the staff had received no notice or explanation from George Mason. Under a
joint venture with a local partner, George Mason is responsible for the
campus's academic side and its overall management, but infrastructure,
salaries, and operating costs are mostly borne by the Ras Al Khaimah Human
Development Foundation, a collaboration between the Ras Al Khaimah
government and a private company, ETA Ascon Group.

The campus's problem illustrates the difficulties of running overseas
academic joint ventures. Several institutions in the United States have
already opened branches in the oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf,
and others are considering such moves. Yet several American educators have
complained that it is sometimes hard to ascertain the trustworthiness of
businesses and other entities in the region that propose partnerships.
George Mason says the branch's first full year of academic programs will
begin on schedule in September with about 200 students. Initial programs
will be at an undergraduate level in nursing and health science,
information technology and engineering, and management. Tuesday, June 20, 2006

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