Michigan State University’s presence in the Middle East will take another turn this fall.
MSU opened a branch campus in Dubai in 2008. The worldwide economic downtown coincided with operations there, and enrollment figures never met the university’s goals. Undergraduate programs in Dubai were shut down two years later.
But a master’s program in human resources and labor relations has survived, and a public health program was added last year. Now, the MSU College of Law will soon begin offering two programs at the scaled-back MSU-Dubai.
The Michigan State University College of Law is setting up two programs in Dubai, a master in laws for students who already have an undergraduate degree in the law and a master of jurisprudence for those with an undergraduate degree in another field of study.
MSU College of Law Professor Michael Lawrence has led the creation of these programs. He says there’s a great demand in that region for education in the law.
“It’s centrally located to Europe, to Asia, and to Africa, and that’s really what we’re focusing on,” Lawrence states. “Certainly the local population is what we concentrate most on, but we are well positioned in the Middle East to reach other students who are willing to come to our executive-style program.”
That executive-style program is designed to allow professionals to travel to Dubai for course work that will be concentrated into stretches of three to five days. There will probably be ten to 20 students at first.
MSU professors will travel to Dubai from East Lansing to teach these intensive classes.
Lawrence says instructors are lining up for the opportunity.
“I will teach a course,” Lawrence adds. “In fact, I’ll teach the first course in October, and give an introduction to the students, an introduction to American business law. And, when I polled my colleagues last year about interest in this program, I think we had 13 or 14 faculty members who immediately expressed an interest. So, we’re set for a few years in terms of sending faculty to Dubai to teach in these intensive blocks.”
NEW LAW PROGRAMS SEEN AS A MARK OF PROGRESS
Tessa Dunseath has been executive director of MSU-Dubai for a year now. If that name sounds familiar, her husband Kevin Dunseath was her predecessor in that post. She says a lot of universities overstretched their efforts in the Middle East, and then went away. Not MSU.
MSU-Dubai did downsize, moving from the closed-down campus at Dubai International Academic City to smaller facilities at Dubai Knowledge Village.
Dunseath says word of the two law programs in Dubai, though modest in scale, has brought MSU more positive attention in the region.
“The press recently are reporting things like the rise of the Phoenix from the ashes,” Dunseath explains, “actually looking to us, not as what a terrible mistake, how can they recover, but as a model of how you do it again, which is slowly, carefully, listening to what the local people in the Emirates and the Gulf region want, and not overstretching.”
SHARIA LAW A FUTURE COURSE OF STUDY?
Lawrence and Dunseath say that if these two programs focusing on the US legal system succeed, it’s possible that a program in Sharia law could be added down the road.
“Certainly, there are many Sharia Law programs in Arabic and otherwise, but really, none in English,” Lawrence says. “So, we think that there’s a real need, and we’ve been told there’s a real interest, in offering courses. Again, if not full degrees, but this course is for persons interested in learning about Sharia Law, in English.”
Dunseath goes further, saying “It is quite a complex topic, so it’s not something that you could do straight off. I know that Michael Lawrence is very interested in meeting the needs of this area, and also expanding the knowledge of other people taking the program in the States, so that’s definitely on the agenda.”
Students will be able to earn the 24 credits required to graduate in as little as two years.
Diplomas issued to graduates of the program will carry the same weight as those awarded to MSU College of Law grads in East Lansing.