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September 20, 2014

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Regents give go-ahead to explore UNLV campus in U.A.E.

UNLV won regents' approval today to pursue a hotel college campus in Ras al Khaimah, one of seven states that comprise the United Arab Emirates.

The overseas satellite could launch as soon as spring 2010 and would offer a bachelor's degree in hotel administration and a master's degree in hospitality administration.

A joint venture between a U.S. development firm and the government of Ras al Khaimah would bankroll the project.

UNLV would be the "anchor," "the crown jewel," on a hospitality-centered development housing a conference center, colleges and other facilities, said Stuart Mann, UNLV's hotel college dean. It would serve about 500 students after five years, he said.

Plans won't move forward until the Ras al Khaimah government finishes a feasability study.

Though the proposal passed, the vote was split 9-3, with regents Jason Geddes, Steve Sisolak and Michael Wixom saying no.

"I will never support building a campus in a country that is not a democracy, practices sexual, racial discrimination and religious discrimination," Geddes said.

Responding to Geddes' concern, Regent Ron Knecht said he thought ventures like the hotel campus abroad could help nudge other countries to adopt progressive values.

The U.A.E. is considered one of the most culturally inclusive nations in the Middle East, and other U.S. higher education institutions planning campuses there have secured promises that discrimination would not occur on their property. Mann said UNLV would do the same.

Political issues aside, regents including Sisolak and Wixom have worried that overseas programs would distract UNLV officials their mission of serving Nevada. Especially at a time when colleges are undergoing budget cuts, "I'm not seeing where there's enough of a benefit to the Maryland Parkway campus," Sisolak said.

"State money pays all three of your salaries," he told administrators proposing the project, "and it's your expertise that you‚re taking over there."

Mann defended his proposal, saying UNLV would reap quite a few benefits, international prestige included.

Though the U.A.E. campus would draw most of its students from the Persian Gulf region, Las Vegas scholars could one day study there, too. If the satellite begins to turn a profit, at least some of that money could return to Nevada to fund programs here.

UNLV's potential partners have also offered to establish two $2.5 million endowed chairs, one of which would fund a Las Vegas faculty member's activities.

UNLV already has a campus in Singapore that offers the same degrees the U.A.E. site would offer.

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