The UAE is a young nation, having been established in 1971. In a mere 40 some years, the education sector of the nation has boomed, now showcasing over 100 licensed higher education institutions in the UAE under the categories of university, institute and college/academy, some following the national curriculum, some British, Australian, US, Indian, Iranian and so on (UAE Higher Education Scientific Research, 2014).
According to Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Education Cluster of TECOM Investments, the UAE has already replaced Malaysia and Singapore to become the fourth most desired destination for higher education after the USA, UK and Canada (The Young Vision, 2016). The UAE now sees students coming from across the globe to join an array of studies offered by the 100 or so higher education institutions. More and more, international universities are setting up branch campuses in the country to be a part of this emerging market. Dubai alone has more than 30 branch campuses with UOWD as the first to enter more than 20 years ago (Swan, 2014).
Higher Education is generally believed to be important because it is the basis for most professional training and careers (Nelson, 2002). Employers are looking for individuals with skill sets and HE is designed as a learning environment that will develop students with a systematic understanding and basis for concepts that are key to industries such as medicine, law, accounting, business and information and communication technology. However, studies have shown that there exists a correlation between academic dishonesty in universities and unethical behaviour at work (Graves, 2008).
Academic integrity in higher education (HE) is the moral and ethical codes in academia which include upholding honour, maintaining standards and avoiding unacceptable behaviour such as cheating and e-cheating. It has been defined as a commitment made by students and teachers to uphold values such as honesty, trust, fairness, respect and responsibilities in the face of difficulties (Centre for Academic Integrity, 2012). Studies have shown that instilling high academic integrity in students allows for greater integrity in the workplace and the Centre (Graves, 2008).
The first higher education institution in the UAE was established in 1976, a mere five years after its birth as a nation in 1971. Since then, the growing education industry in the UAE and around the region has sporadically highlighted instances of academic dishonesty through a few news articles, journal papers and conferences.
By means of an exhaustive database search, researchers have located 42 articles from 2005 to 2017 that have addressed the issue of academic dishonesty among students in the nation. Of these, some 20 articles were published as news in mainstream media while 21 were either conference or journal articles. So far, one doctoral thesis has been conducted on the subject in the region and two international conferences have been hosted targeting the country and the region.
All articles have highlighted the existence of the issue of academic dishonesty among students in the educational institutions, sharing their concerns over the need for solutions. Based on the findings of the studies and news articles and as presented at closing note at the International Conference on Academic Integrity – Middle East 2016 by Keynote Speakers late Professor Tracey Bretag and Dr Teddi Fishman and other dignitaries, there is a need for a central focal body dedicated to researching the various aspects of academic integrity and dishonest conduct by students, community and academic staff’s attitude towards such behaviour, policy reviews and so on in order to provide support, training, good practices and exemplars with strong support from local and international scientists, researchers and specialists in the area to aid the growing educational industry.
Academic Integrity is a fundamental cornerstone of education. However, it is imperative that every facet of the education system work together, towards building, encouraging, and sustaining a culture of integrity across campuses world-wide. The UAE is an emerging hub for education, particularly higher education. In accordance with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s UAE Vision 2021, education is seen as the bedrock of the UAE”s economic success. To create a truly world-class education system, a fundamental foundation for education is academic integrity which is vital to assessment practices. With a variety of institutions coming from differing systems from across the globe to the UAE, it is crucial to establish a dedicated Centre that will work towards developing uniform standards of practices and offering expertise, and learning resources to deal with academic dishonesty across the sector.