Student evaluation of teaching and student centeredness in the Humboldtian and Emirati tribal traditions of higher education
This study is the result of interviewing administrators and academics as well as conducting content analysis of student evaluation of teaching (SET) forms in 14 universities in Germany and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The aim was to establish whether and if so, how, this procedure differs in two highly hierarchical social and academic contexts. We found that SETs have been adopted by all the universities we visited between 2001 and 2013, for some courses in Germany and for all of those in the United Arab Emirates. National and regional higher education laws and accreditation procedures act as coercive and normative mechanisms that promote SET’s implementation in Germany and the UAE, respectively. It emerged that SETs are commonly used for monitoring in Germany and the UAE, in private Emirati and German universities for checking the continuity of contracts and, in private German ones, to report students, while Emirati students do not receive reports, despite their treatment as clients. Further, we elicited that SETs reproduce student-centeredness in all the visited universities in both countries, albeit to varying degrees. We conclude that SETs demonstrate the strength of rationalizing trends in higher education (HE). Moreover, nuances in the implementation of SET, which we relate to the protection of professors’ autonomy in Germany and the cultural norm of respecting faculty as a highly regarded position in the UAE, remain related to the Humboldtian and tribal heritage of our studied countries, respectively.