The American College of Dubai offers a US style curriculum within the framework of the American university system which has several unique features that students should understand before beginning their studies.
Firstly, the American system is characterized by its commitment to broad educational goals and not to narrow specialization in a given discipline. The student in the American system must complete a number of general subjects in a diverse range of disciplines before beginning his or her chosen field of concentration. Even as students progress beyond their beginning year(s), they can select a number of subjects outside their main field of study called “electives” and can take them concurrently with the subjects in their field of specialization. These “electives,” although not always directly related to the area of specialization, will nevertheless count toward the degree. An associated number or total of these “electives” is often referred to as a “minor” while the area of specialization is called the “major.”
Secondly, the US university system is based on a modular system known as credits or credit hours. The credit hour system requires some explanation as it is exclusive to American universities and is somewhat confusing to the uninformed. Credits, with some 120 necessary to earn a B.A., B.Sc., or BBA degree, are calculated by the number of hours a student spends per week in class during a normal 15-16 week semester. If, for example, a class in Economics meets for three hours every week over the semester, a student receives three credits for Economics. Full time students usually takes no less than five subjects per semester and consequently they accumulate 15 credits every semester assuming they receive passing grades. To earn a degree, the student must earn 120 credits, with many of these credits coming from required subjects, others from elected subjects (or those which the student can choose). Since the average student takes 15 credits per semester (5 subjects x 3 credits each) he or she will need approximately 8 academic semesters to meet the BA or BBA requirements. This will normally require 4 academic years unless the student is able to speed up the process by taking summer courses or more than 15 credits per academic semester.
Thirdly, the system differs in the method of evaluating or grading the work of the student. In an American university, there is what is known as “ongoing assessment,” whereby a student knows on a regular basis how he or she is performing in the academic course or subject. This is due to the fact that examinations are held frequently and not only at the end of the term as is done in many educational systems. Furthermore, the grades are assigned by the instructors themselves and not by some external body or board.
Finally, the grading process itself differs from many other systems. Grades are assigned during and at the end of the term or even academic year in the following manner. A=Excellent; B+=Very Good; B=Good; C+=Average; C=Satisfactory; D=Borderline Pass, and F=Fail (whereby the subject must be repeated if it is a requirement for the degree). Each of these letter grades have a numerical equivalent as A= 4 pts; B+=3.5; B= 3 pts; C+=2.5; C= 2 pts; D=1 pt; and F=0 pts. A student’s grade point average (GPA) covering his or her performance in all subjects is expressed in these numerical terms. For example, if the average grade for a term or academic year or even a 4 year degree is a C grade, then the GPA will reflect this on a student’s transcript which will indicate that he or she has a 2.00 GPA. Some universities require a certain GPA for the student to graduate or to apply for advanced degrees beyond the undergraduate level. The highest GPA it is possible to achieve is a 4 point GPA–a score which is very rare even for the best of the students.