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Mon 9 Apr 2012 11:52 AM

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University shut Dubai branch over Iran spy fears

CIA advised Michigan State University to refuse 2009 bailout, incurring US$3.7m loss

University shut Dubai branch over Iran spy fears
In late 2009, Michigan State University’s Dubai campus was struggling to fill its undergraduate courses. (By Branislav Ondrasik [Own work], via Wikimedia Commons)

A US university closed its Dubai
campus in 2009, incurring a loss of US$3.7m, after it declined an offer of a
bailout from a Dubai-based firm which the CIA suspected was a front for the
Iranian government, it was reported on Monday.

In late 2009, Michigan State
University’s Dubai campus was struggling to fill its undergraduate courses and
raise its dwindling admission levels.

When the campus was approached by
a Dubai-based company willing to provide investment and students, it raised the
concerns of the university’s US-based president Lou Anna K Simon.

Simon contacted the US Central
Intelligence Agency as she was worried the company, which had investors from
Iran and wanted to recruit students from there, might be a front for the
Iranian government and any deal might violate US federal trade sanctions and
invite enemy spies.

The CIA could not confirm that the
company was not an arm of Iran’s government, leading Simon to reject the offer and close its undergraduate programmes in Dubai, Bloomberg reported.

In 2009 many US universities’
Dubai-based campuses were struggling to adjust to the global downturn and were
struggling to attract enough qualified students, according to a report in the
New York Times
at the time.

“Nobody could have anticipated
the global meltdown, which has certainly had a negative effect on our student
marketing,” Brendan Mullan, executive director of Michigan State Dubai, told
the US newspaper then.

Mullan added that the campus
would now take five years to break-even, two years more than originally
planned, but that the university was still determined to remain in Dubai.

“We still believe this is viable
and valuable. We are not compromising on quality, even if that means it takes
us longer to gain traction here. We’re not just going to be a teaching
storefront here; we’re going to have significant research capacity, and our
commitment to Dubai is unyielding.”

However, an upsurge in the
regional economy has seen Michigan State University, which was ranked 164
in the world in the recent QS World University Rankings, reopen its campus in
Dubai's Knowledge Village.

According to its website, the
campus started offering two year healthcare courses in 2011 and will launch two
new legal master’s courses in late 2012.

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RaOne 7 years ago

What exactly these people are trying to say? Have you forgotten which region you are in? Just cause some company run by Iranian comes with an offer, it does not mean they are all spies.

A badly run business went bust...causing huge burden to many students...thats the real truth.

Even the CIA could not confirm their fear and they have students last in their list of priority.

John L 7 years ago

This is just a PR stunt - shame on you Michigan State!

Hatem Al Banna 7 years ago

When would such people start understanding that its not easy to come up with such lies just for their PR.

People in the middle east is educated and such a u-turn in media would not go threw, just because of the economical downturn and lack of students which the university could not get they stopped the operations and to cover their management, educational and operations failure they came up with a james bond oo7 interesting story! waw

And now with the market starting to recover and investments in education started to rise again with UAE becoming a hub of education in the ME; they said lets try again and come back with a bad lie maybe it would cover our failure :)

thats such a shame on Michigan state

Edwin Baines 7 years ago

Why would Michigan State University shut its Dubai branch over Iran spy fears when Dubai is home to thousands of Iranians? If there are real security concerns then may be Dubai shouldn't have opened its doors so liberally to Iranians in the first place.