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Working at Gulf unis a challenge for western academics

 
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
Posts: 4309
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 09, 2014 7:04 pm    Post subject: Working at Gulf unis a challenge for western academics Reply with quote

Working at Persian Gulf universities can be a challenge for western academics
By J. Bhatti, J. Dumalaon & A. Alami, The Chronicle | January 29, 2014
Source: http://chronicle.com/article/Working-at-Persian-Gulf/144279/

The fight for more visibility and higher rankings on the global higher-education stage has wealthy Gulf Cooperation Council countries scrambling for international academic talent, and offering salary packages with a reputation for being generous. That reputation, it turns out, is not always deserved.

But for many struggling Arab academics from countries where teaching is less lucrative, a common solution is to look toward the Gulf. English departments across Tunisia are being emptied of their teachers and professors because most of them have already headed to the Gulf countries where the salaries are four to five times those at home,” said Akram Khalifa, a former professor of English literature at Tunisia’s University of Manouba. “Those who could have left, already have,” echoed one lecturer at the University of Jordan.

Foreign academics, say experts, make up the majority of academia in the Gulf. Even so, some worry about the consequences of working there. “The Gulf is still off-the-beaten track,” said an education consultant based in the Gulf. Foreign academics, he said, “worry that if they come to the Middle East, they would get out of the traditional career trajectory—from teaching assistant to assistant professor and so on.” Academics from countries where professors can get tenure, such as the United States, are wary of career moves that might endanger their ability to win that status at home.

Still, there are clear financial advantages to working in the Gulf, especially tax-free salaries, which lure Arab and non-Arab academics alike to countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “If you looked at the salaries at any reasonably high performing Western university— from Ivy League to sub-Ivy League – that should give a broad direction, at least for Qatar,” said the consultant, referring to salary levels. "And Qatar is possibly one of the best places to be a researcher.” Another research fund has recently been announced in Qatar, including support for undergraduate research. Research funding for academics can also be quite strong in other Gulf countries, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, although researchers sometimes complain of bureaucratic obstacles to ordering equipment or getting permission to attend international meetings in their disciplines.

Faculty members bargaining for a job offer in the Gulf should realize they are often facing highly informed and experienced negotiators who have access to international benchmarks. As is increasingly common in other parts of the world, Gulf institutions are pooling human resource information. One such survey found that university presidents in the region were making around $460,000 before noncash benefits.

Besides salaries comparable to the West, professors in the Gulf can earn allowances supplementing base pay. A job vacancy listing for the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology at the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah shows the type of salary an academic can expect in Saudi Arabia. A full professor would earn around $2,430 monthly, an additional $134 in “experience allowances” for each year as a full professor, an unspecified “special allowance” of 150 percent of the base salary each year, a transport allowance of $160, a yearly housing allowance of $6,664 and a one-off furniture allowance of $3,333. That means an annual salary for an academic who has been a full professor for five years would be $80,940 plus $8,584 in housing and transportation.

Flights home are provided annually for foreign teaching staff ranging from assistant to full professor, and also include fares for spouses and two dependent children. In addition, the package includes 60 days of paid vacation, as well as two paid vacations of 10 days each for the two Eid holidays, important Muslim celebrations.

Finally, when the contract comes to an end, the professor will receive a severance package amounting to half the monthly salary for each year of service for the first five years, which increases to a full monthly salary per year of service after the sixth year. All those incentives are designed to make up for a lack of pension contributions and to avoid faculty turnover, which leads to high administrative and recruiting costs.

Even with highly competitive salaries and benefits, many already in the Gulf say the region doesn’t always live up to its reputation for generosity. And it starts with battles with recruitment agencies—one of the most common paths that foreign academics follow to come to work at Gulf universities. One lecturer at the King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, recalls agreeing to a specific salary only to have the terms changed shortly before she was due to start teaching. “After signing a contract for $3,000 per month, I and a group of South African teachers were told that the company felt that $2,500 was a more suitable salary,” she said. “I threatened to return home to Canada if I wasn’t paid the full salary agreed upon.” Her colleagues were not so lucky. “They were just told their new salary of $2,500 was non-negotiable,” she added. The South Africans stayed, feeling the job situation in their home country would be worse.

In the Emirates, salaries vary according to which of the three federal institutions professors teach at: United Arab Emirates University, Zayed University or the Higher Colleges of Technology. Those who have been in the country longer also tend to get more than recent recruits, as government education budgets have been slashed. “The salaries are definitely competitive on a global scale,” one government source said. “I would say that the average professor at the United Arab Emirates University has a better lifestyle and overall income than the average professor in the USA or the UK, especially when taxes are factored in.”

Sources in the Emirates indicated a range of $41,000 for an instructor in Arabic to $176,000 for a full professor of business at one federal institution, although those numbers are a few years old. Another federal institution estimated the average faculty member cost them $109,000 including all vacation, housing, medical benefits, airplane tickets home, and schooling for children. One academic who taught as an assistant professor at a public university in the Emirates, described the salary situation as “not nearly as good as people think.” His starting salary was $57,000 per year plus benefits—housing, tuition and airfare for his family. Lower-level teaching positions were paid in the $40,000 range. But lofty qualifications did not make for marked differences, he said. "A colleague who left a tenure position and came in as associate professor only made 20 percent more than me,” he recalled. But “it’s tax-free and a comfortable lifestyle—so the jobs remain attractive.”

Professors in the Emirates with technical skills often supplement their income with consulting work, although it is officially frowned on. A professor of engineering might be paid several thousand dollars to fly to Yemen to review construction projects or a business professor might go to Saudi Arabia to give a workshop on project management.

Perceptions of what is a comfortable living vary greatly and are culturally relative. Emiratis are paid much more than expatriates. One salary table showed Emiratis getting about 20 percent more than expatriates. Anecdotally, some Emiratis said they could make two or three times that of expatriate counterparts. “If without children, the salary is fine,” said one Emirati. “Emirati academics are very rare, there aren’t a lot of them,” said John Waterbury, a political science professor at New York University, Abu Dhabi, and former president of the American University of Beirut. “These positions are not as attractive to them—they get better paying jobs outside of academia.”

In the end, universities in the Gulf countries and the recruiting agencies that serve them vary enormously in their treatment of faculty members. Those considering a career path that includes the Gulf would do well, say those who have worked there, to step carefully.

(End of article)
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scot47



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is not a recent phenomenon. I remember in the 1970s and 1980s the schools of Sudan were overnight devoid of teachers of Englisdh. They had all gone to KSA and other GCC countries. Khartoum very cleverly came up with a programme to recruit naive British graduates to travel to Sudan and teach on volunteer terms for a local salary. They replaced the Sudanese who had gone off to teach for real salaries !Smart !

Last edited by scot47 on Mon May 12, 2014 8:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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revilo



Joined: 05 Oct 2013
Posts: 74
Location: Beirut, habibi!

PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2014 2:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“After signing a contract for $3,000 per month, I and a group of South African teachers were told that the company felt that $2,500 was a more suitable salary,” she said. “I threatened to return home to Canada if I wasn’t paid the full salary agreed upon.” Her colleagues were not so lucky. “They were just told their new salary of $2,500 was non-negotiable,” she added. The South Africans stayed, feeling the job situation in their home country would be worse.

Welcome to the new economy... of course, who can blame the S. Africans for taking a crappy deal? The alternative is to return to S. Africa. KAU has a reputation for finding the lower end of the scale very quickly...
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lcanupp1964



Joined: 12 Dec 2009
Posts: 323
Location: Jeddah, KSA

PostPosted: Mon May 12, 2014 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I know you didn't mean to clump KAU (because you wrote, "company" and not "university") with what happened. KAU would never do a "Bait and Switch" on any teacher and change their salary unless the main campus HR didn't approval one of the positions listed on the teachers' CV. If one can't provide letters of employment for any position listed on their CV, their salary would be adjusted. You are right about how the economy is changing all over KSA. Do you work for KAU? Smile
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revilo



Joined: 05 Oct 2013
Posts: 74
Location: Beirut, habibi!

PostPosted: Thu May 15, 2014 5:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

lcanupp1964 wrote:
If one can't provide letters of employment for any position listed on their CV, their salary would be adjusted. You are right about how the economy is changing all over KSA. Do you work for KAU? Smile


Nope, I interviewed but the offer was lower than what I wanted, so I left.
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coder



Joined: 12 Jun 2014
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:44 pm    Post subject: Re: Working at Gulf unis a challenge for western academics Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
Working at Persian Gulf universities can be a challenge for western academics


Thanks for posting the article. However, it has some shortfalls prospective employees should be aware of.

1. Nowhere does it mention the most difficult part of accepting a “Gulf” teaching job. The “challenge” is not the career aspects of the job – it’s the “living (and teaching) in the Gulf” that is the challenge.

Nowhere does it mention, for example, the almost complete unpreparedness of your typical Gulf student for English-based academic work. (Nor does it mention that fact you are practically forbidden to flunk the 80% of your students that you normally would back home if you had the same level students that you will have in the Gulf). Nowhere does it even hint of the huge difference in “living styles” between, say, a USA campus and a campus in KSA.

Most prospective faculty members, of course, are aware of the “differences” that might await them. But for the most part, these are superficial impressions.

Just to address one concept: Very few realize that by accepting a job in the Gulf, you basically give up and lose any civil, constitutional, legal etc. rights you might take for granted in your home country. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a totally alien concept in the Middle East in general. Instead, you would most likely be guilty by default simply because you are a foreigner.

This “alienation” is an aspect not mentioned in the article, as I said, yet it is an aspect of living in the Gulf that colors and governs not just your work situation, but your entire living situation up and down the cultural spectrum. It hits you the moment your arriving airplane opens its doors and doesn’t disappear until you make a final departure. The article blandly describes the situation as if you were accepting a job in Cincinnati.

2. Another shortfall, at least as far as ESL teachers are concerned, is that it is not written for nor addressed to the typical situation of an ESL teacher in the Gulf.

While ESL teachers are considered part of the “faculty” in several institutions, the fact is this designation has come into usage with “tongue in cheek”, in my view. The article assumes you are a “true” faculty member in which research and publishing take up at least 50% of your work schedule, that you have a PhD, have published etc – hardly a situation even the most experienced ESL teacher is likely to have ever experienced, certainly not in the Gulf.

The results of such academic work represent and govern a faculty member’s advancement and stature. As an ESL teacher you can publish all you want – it won’t make an iota of difference in your position. (And so on).
An article truly representing your typical faculty experience in the Gulf has yet to be written.

Most likely, the authors have never been to the Gulf – notice that they use “Persian Gulf” in their title – Everybody knows it should be “Arabian Gulf”. Wink
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caliph



Joined: 05 Jun 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent observations.

I agree with all your points except one.

The "Gulf" has traditionally always been known as the Persian Gulf, not the Arabian Gulf. Look at most maps published outside of the Arab gulf countries and it is invariably called the Persian Gulf and has been known as such for centuries. The gulf arabs have a way of altering map references to suit their political aspirations. The most glaring example is the lack of the "country with no name", (Israel) not being on their locally published maps.

I just checked my collection of atlases and maps and the only one that has the Arabian Gulf is the Michelin, (maybe because France has traditionally had closer relations with the Arab world, often for economic advantages). Times of London, Bartholomew, Google Earth, and all others I checked have Persian Gulf.

It's a point that I always jokingly debate with my gulf students. I say you have a big Arabian Sea, let the Persians have this little khaleej.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back when I arrived to learn of the new name, I noticed at that time that it had started to be referred to as "The Gulf" - not by the US, but by the British news sources and maps.

Of course, in the US, the Gulf is the Gulf of Mexico...

VS
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caliph



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And, for left coasters, Gulf of California, between Baja peninsula and mainland Mexico,
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nomad soul



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

coder wrote:
However, it has some shortfalls prospective employees should be aware of.

1. Nowhere does it mention the most difficult part of accepting a “Gulf” teaching job. The “challenge” is not the career aspects of the job – it’s the “living (and teaching) in the Gulf” that is the challenge.

Nowhere does it mention, for example, the almost complete unpreparedness of your typical Gulf student for English-based academic work. (Nor does it mention that fact you are practically forbidden to flunk the 80% of your students that you normally would back home if you had the same level students that you will have in the Gulf). Nowhere does it even hint of the huge difference in “living styles” between, say, a USA campus and a campus in KSA.

Most prospective faculty members, of course, are aware of the “differences” that might await them. But for the most part, these are superficial impressions.

Just to address one concept: Very few realize that by accepting a job in the Gulf, you basically give up and lose any civil, constitutional, legal etc. rights you might take for granted in your home country. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a totally alien concept in the Middle East in general. Instead, you would most likely be guilty by default simply because you are a foreigner.

This “alienation” is an aspect not mentioned in the article, as I said, yet it is an aspect of living in the Gulf that colors and governs not just your work situation, but your entire living situation up and down the cultural spectrum. It hits you the moment your arriving airplane opens its doors and doesn’t disappear until you make a final departure. The article blandly describes the situation as if you were accepting a job in Cincinnati.

Yet, why should the article bring up basic legal and cultural challenges of working in the Gulf rather than cover employment practices one may encounter? I doubt the authors (Bhatti, Dumalaon, & Alami, by the way) intended this piece to be a "how to" guide on personal cultural adjustments one should be aware of when taking a job in the GCC. Besides, you're criticizing the article from an almost ethnocentric Western perspective.

Frankly, people spend more time thoroughly researching their vacations than they do the overseas jobs they're about to accept. The GCC attracts plenty of potential teachers who only see the prospect of making big money and not the realities of working abroad. Additionally, having inflexible, high (unrealistic) expectations pretty much sets them up for disappointment in both life and work. Let's face it, some folks should basically avoid working/living in certain countries; it's simply not their cup of tea.

and wrote:
2. Another shortfall, at least as far as ESL teachers are concerned, is that it is not written for nor addressed to the typical situation of an ESL teacher in the Gulf.

I posted it as a general article of interest---to give a snapshot. The fact that it doesn't focus on TESOL is moot; it is what it is. However, instead of picking apart the article, feel free to criticize me for posting it.

lastly wrote:
An article truly representing your typical faculty experience in the Gulf has yet to be written.

Sure, but I don't expect it to reflect my personal experiences and point of view nor that of many others. Besides, the GCC is not one big, monocultural country.
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rdobbs98



Joined: 08 Oct 2010
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2014 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nomad soul wrote:
coder wrote:
However, it has some shortfalls prospective employees should be aware of.

1. Nowhere does it mention the most difficult part of accepting a “Gulf” teaching job. The “challenge” is not the career aspects of the job – it’s the “living (and teaching) in the Gulf” that is the challenge.

Nowhere does it mention, for example, the almost complete unpreparedness of your typical Gulf student for English-based academic work. (Nor does it mention that fact you are practically forbidden to flunk the 80% of your students that you normally would back home if you had the same level students that you will have in the Gulf). Nowhere does it even hint of the huge difference in “living styles” between, say, a USA campus and a campus in KSA.

Most prospective faculty members, of course, are aware of the “differences” that might await them. But for the most part, these are superficial impressions.

Just to address one concept: Very few realize that by accepting a job in the Gulf, you basically give up and lose any civil, constitutional, legal etc. rights you might take for granted in your home country. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a totally alien concept in the Middle East in general. Instead, you would most likely be guilty by default simply because you are a foreigner.

This “alienation” is an aspect not mentioned in the article, as I said, yet it is an aspect of living in the Gulf that colors and governs not just your work situation, but your entire living situation up and down the cultural spectrum. It hits you the moment your arriving airplane opens its doors and doesn’t disappear until you make a final departure. The article blandly describes the situation as if you were accepting a job in Cincinnati.

Yet, why should the article bring up basic legal and cultural challenges of working in the Gulf rather than cover employment practices one may encounter? I doubt the authors (Bhatti, Dumalaon, & Alami, by the way) intended this piece to be a "how to" guide on personal cultural adjustments one should be aware of when taking a job in the GCC. Besides, you're criticizing the article from an almost ethnocentric Western perspective.

Frankly, people spend more time thoroughly researching their vacations than they do the overseas jobs they're about to accept. The GCC attracts plenty of potential teachers who only see the prospect of making big money and not the realities of working abroad. Additionally, having inflexible, high (unrealistic) expectations pretty much sets them up for disappointment in both life and work. Let's face it, some folks should basically avoid working/living in certain countries; it's simply not their cup of tea.

and wrote:
2. Another shortfall, at least as far as ESL teachers are concerned, is that it is not written for nor addressed to the typical situation of an ESL teacher in the Gulf.

I posted it as a general article of interest---to give a snapshot. The fact that it doesn't focus on TESOL is moot; it is what it is. However, instead of picking apart the article, feel free to criticize me for posting it.

lastly wrote:
An article truly representing your typical faculty experience in the Gulf has yet to be written.

Sure, but I don't expect it to reflect my personal experiences and point of view nor that of many others. Besides, the GCC is not one big, monocultural country.


Nomad posted a decent article and of course the authors can only give a snap shot of reality here. This is why a forum like "Dave's" fills in the gaps from real experiences.
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