In at least one case, a teacher at HCT told the Gazette they had been asked to get their certificates ‘notarised’ – certified by a notary. According to our sources, staff have been told to attest all their qualifications – some say right back to their ‘transcripts’ at secondary school, with US terminology being applied even to teachers whose education was within a school system that doesn’t have Sats or transcripts.
One source described ‘stories of people weeping in the corridors’ knowing that they couldn’t verify their qualifications by the deadline given to them, either the end of March or the end of April. Those who went back to their managers at HCT to say they couldn’t attest their qualifications in time were reportedly told to do so by the deadline or they wouldn’t get their contracts renewed.
The Gazette understands that the recruitment round for the next academic year starting in September was already under way in March, and that teaching staff need to let their managers know by November if they want to renew their contract for the following academic year. While teaching contracts for expatriates tend to be short term, we understand that they have until now not been regarded as short-term employment prospects. The Gazette spoke to one HCT teacher who had been on a series of short-term contracts there for well over a decade, and had settled in the UAE and started a family there.
The practice of EFL teaching staff being asked to attest their educational backgrounds has ‘definitely spread to Zayed University’, the government-sponsored higher education institution with campuses in Khalifa City and Al Ruwayyah near the Dubai International Academic City. The Gazette has heard reports of this practice from three different sources.
In late 2013 Zayed University’s president Dr Maitha Al Shansi announced that a ‘major restructuring’ of Zayed was planned, according to Gulf News, although no detail was forthcoming on what form this was to take.
Verification of distance-learning qualifications remains a problem for English teachers in the Gulf States in general. Online courses have long been ‘a no-no in the Gulf’ and will remain so, as in many other countries. According to our sources at the Tesol Arabia fair, distance-learning courses that have a summer school or some kind of compulsory face-to-face attendance built in are acceptable, in the UAE at least. These can be validated for employment in teaching posts in the UAE, but only if the graduate can produce ‘exit and entry stamps’ both from the country where they attended their distance-learning summer school, and for the country where the course was based.
This presupposes that, for example, UK Visas and Immigration stamps the passports of its own nationals on arrival and on leaving the UK, which it doesn’t. This condition also assumes that a teacher will always go abroad to do a distance-learning course, rather than doing a part-time masters by distance learning in their own country, for which they would have no entry and exit stamps. The head of a Tesol department in a UK university contacted the Gazette to say some of its alumni had recently got in touch for advice on validating their MA Tesol by distance learning for a higher education institution in the UAE.
As we went to press, our email enquiries to the HCT and Zayed University had either bounced or received no response other than automated replies.
Marian Sherwood reports from the Gulf on rising concerns about new contracts for EL teachers
Well over three hundred teaching staff at the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) network in the United Arab Emirates received letters in January informing them their contracts either would not be renewed or would only be renewed if demands to verify all experience and qualifications, including high-school diplomas, were met by the end of April. But even this would be on a new contract, the terms of which are unknown.
Each document must be verified by a ‘higher authority’. The process is not only time-consuming but also very costly – as well as fees for certifying degrees there are courier charges. Some teachers have paid out over £1,000 but still don’t know if they can complete the documentation before the deadline.
Many of those affected have worked for HCT for years, having passed their probation, and securing good teaching and student evaluations. They provided validated degree certificates on appointment but now must provide proof of graduation from secondary school as well as university transcripts. There have also been demands for dissertation abstracts and for sight of old passports to prove residence in particular countries.
It’s a particular problem for older professionals. Some education systems do not provide transcripts as standard, while schools and universities have closed, merged or been renamed. Higher degrees by distance learning may not be recognised, and anyone who did not take a standard route into higher education is at risk.
While some teachers are struggling to put the paperwork together, others are so disenchanted that they have decided to leave. HCT plans to recruit to fill the vacant posts, and were present at the Tesol Arabia jobs fair in Dubai in March.
Some members of staff at HCT are being asked to provide abstracts of their MA dissertations. (The Gazette knows of at least one expatriate EFL lecturers in Emirati HE with an MA from 1983, with their research typed by themselves on a manual typewriter, and no digital version in existence.) One American who thought they had finished the verification process – everything stamped and complete – was then asked for certified proof of their Sat scores because they left high school less than twenty years ago.
Marian Sherwood is a pseudonym for an EFL teacher working in the Gulf
The Gazette has been unable to confirm widespread reports claiming that hundreds of teachers at two high-profile higher education institutions in the United Arab Emirates have allegedly been requested to ‘attest’ their qualifications – to have the validity of their educational diplomas verified. Neither the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) network nor Zayed University – the institutions at the centre of widespread stories the Gazette has heard from teachers – have yet responded to our attempts to contact them. In some cases, staff have allegedly been asked to verify their qualification going back all the way to high school. Staff, including EFL practitioners, who fail to get all their certificates verified reportedly won’t have their contracts for the next academic year renewed. Distance-learning EFL/Tesol qualifications in particular remain problematic for employment throughout the Gulf States