Higher education vouchers: a solution in search of a problem. A case study of the United Arab Emirates.

  • Gordon Handke

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Business (DBA)


Trading and market forces have been an integral part of the development of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), transforming the country from its early days primarily reliant on the pearling industry to the modern nation that it now is. Market forces have also impacted the development of the higher education sector in the UAE, shifting from a funding model that was primarily based on a centralized, input-based approach towards a more decentralized supply driven approach, funding the public institutions on a per student basis, together with supplemental funding, based on purpose-specific criteria. During this shift towards a more decentralized funding model the federal government undertook some initial discussions on progressing funding from this supply driven approach (providing funds directly to institutions) to a demand driven approach (providing funds indirectly to institutions via vouchers supplied to students). The claim that vouchers promote improved quality and efficiency through competition was seen as a primary reason why the UAE government considered applying market forces to fund higher education. Increased awareness of both students and their parents of the cost of high education along with increased student choice to facilitate greater education diversity to support a pathway to a knowledge economy were additional considerations. Hypothesizing the problem, or problems, the UAE government was attempting to address by implementing voucher funding for higher education was alike to poising a solution in search of a problem, hence the title of this thesis: “Higher education vouchers: a solution in search of a problem. A case study of the United Arab Emirates”. This study examines whether voucher funding within the UAE is possible (or not) and in what form and under what conditions. The study also seeks out the wider considerations on prerequisites for market-based funding models and potential recommendations for a regulatory framework.
Date of Award24 Jun 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJeroen Huisman (Supervisor), Ian Jamieson (Supervisor) & Rajani Naidoo (Supervisor)

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