U offers degree program overseas

The University will launch a master’s degree program in Saudi Arabia this spring.

Molly Moker

Professional students in Saudi Arabia will soon be able to get a University degree without entering the United States.

The College of Education and Human Development will launch a master’s degree program in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, this spring. The program will give professionals the chance to obtain a master’s degree in human resource development.

The master’s-level program is based off the college’s 14-credit certificate program, which allows students to take several classes without receiving a degree. The certificate program has been offered in Saudi Arabia since 1999.

So far, two groups of students have completed the certificate program, with a third group finishing this fall.

Studies conducted by the University show at least 30 of the 52 students who have already completed the initial

program are interested in and qualify to enroll in the master’s program. The University also found that there are no human resource development master’s degrees offered in Dhahran.

The class

The 34-credit master’s program is identical to the program offered at the University, said Gene Allen, associate vice president for international programs. The University’s program is consistently ranked first among similar institutions in the United States, he said.

In Dhahran, each course will last for a few days every several months. Different faculty members from the University will travel to Dhahran to teach the courses, Allen said.

Eleven tenured University faculty members have developed the program, and four will go to Dhahran to teach courses, he said.

To receive the master’s degree, students will need to complete the certificate program, an additional four courses and an applied field study. Once the certificate program is finished, it will take approximately a year and a half to receive the master’s, said Gary McLean, professor and coordinator for human resource development and adult education.

Allen said most students are already professionals working in the oil industry. They range in age from 24 to 55 and represent at least 12 different countries.


Courses are taught in a complex owned by Saudi Aramco, a major oil company in Saudi Arabia. Because of security concerns, the compound is enclosed and highly guarded, Allen said. Faculty members live inside a hotel that is part of the Saudi Aramco complex.

McLean said he has taught certificate-program courses in Dhahran five times and has never felt unsafe.

“I feel safer there than I do here,” he said.

The complex is encircled by three security fences, and incoming vehicles are checked at each gate.

He also said the National Guard has recently joined the security.

Carlson abroad

The Carlson School of Management already has offshore degree programs in place.

The school offers three executive master of business administration programs in Warsaw, Poland; Vienna, Austria; and Guangzhou, China.

Warsaw’s program is 10 years old, Vienna’s is 5 years old and Guangzhou’s is 3 years old.

The University was the first institution in the Big Ten, and one of the first schools in the country, to have an executive master of business administration program abroad, Allen said.

Michael Houston, associate dean of international programs for the Carlson School, said the Warsaw school was launched just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and business leaders in the country needed guidance in creating a free market economy.

Sending professors abroad is a huge asset for the University, Allen said.

“When our faculty interacts with professionals working in the field, they bring back these perspectives to our classes and our campus,” he said. “You have a very different connection in the classroom.”

But sometimes the culture gap makes things tough, Houston said.

“You run into different systems of value the students have,” Houston said. “They are much more casual about class attendance, it’s very different.”

For example, Houston said, in Warsaw and Guangzhou, when students are given individual assignments, they often still work together.


Allen said all of the University’s foreign programs earn a profit for the school.

“The colleges plan to make money,” Allen said. “They don’t do these at a loss.”

Students taking the Saudi Arabia courses pay international, nonresident tuition, as if they were coming to the University to study, Allen said.

McLean said the University makes a lot of money off these programs.

“They’re not using any University resources, except faculty,” he said.

McLean said there are no financial risks for the University, and after expenses, the institution can expect to cash in on $194,000, in addition to the $7,800 to the college’s technology fee and $16,200 in University fees.

The facility and informational resources are all donated by Saudi Aramco.

Houston said he does not look at the programs as generating money for the University. The programs receive no state funding and are only supported by the tuition the students pay, he said.

“These programs support the expenses of our faculty teaching them, and they support the salary of the staff that works on them,” Houston said.

The primary purpose is not to make money, Houston said.

“It is to build the reputation of the University and the Carlson School, and to give a meaningful experience to our faculty that they can bring back to their classes here.”