BRINGING IN THE EXPERTS

Abu Dhabi 2017 | EDUCATION | FOCUS: INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS UNIVERSITIES

The development of a highly skilled and developed workforce is an integral part of Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 and one of the seven pillars upon which the future economic development of the Emirate lays. Education has therefore been placed in the spotlight as one of the key areas to keep a close eye on.

To meet the expectations of Abu Dhabi's Vision 2030, ADEC approved a series of reforms to ensure college graduates get the necessary skills and capabilities to drive growth. The reforms emphasized the importance of specialized and vocational education in the areas of engineering, aerospace, IT, medicine, applied sciences, tourism, and business. Based on the objectives of Vision 2030, ADEC pointed at the need to attract foreign universities to develop areas where Abu Dhabi lacked expertise and where further research would be required.

Part of this initiative is to provide opportunities for reputable foreign universities to open branches in the Emirate to serve as poles of attraction not only for experienced lecturers and researchers, but also for Tier-1 students looking for educational opportunities in the Emirates. Coupled with a strong local commitment to invest in education, ADEC's partnerships with these institutions are meant to strengthen the education sector and, ultimately, make Abu Dhabi a regional education hub.

Today the UAE holds the highest concentration of university campuses around the world with 40 branches across five Emirates. In the particular case of Abu Dhabi, it plays host to global education leaders in the likes of New York University (NYU), Paris Sorbonne, INSEAD, the University of Strathclyde, and the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT).

The presence of these foreign universities is expected to make Abu Dhabi an international hub not only for education, but home to innovative industrial and aerospace sectors driven by a robust and qualified workforce. This will only help fortify the UAE's position as a high-tech center in the Middle East. The focus has been particularly strong on executive education to educate the country's future leaders.

Among the opportunities brought by these international campuses is the direct link provided to peers in other major cities around the globe. For example, an Abu Dhabi student is able to study in Singapore, London, or Paris, for example. It is precisely this internationalization of Abu Dhabi's education services that has been the talk of the town among private and public institutions in the Emirate. Eric Fouache, Vice Chancellor for Paris Sorbonne University in Abu Dhabi, explained, “Today we host students from 77 nationalities, with 40% of them coming from families based overseas, meaning that we are a truly international university and that Abu Dhabi has become an attractive destination for international students.”

Moreover, as the education landscape in Abu Dhabi matures, the post-graduation prospects for students are becoming increasingly attractive to Emirati and international students alike. Studies reveal that MBA graduates in Abu Dhabi can expect salaries ranging between USD140,000 and 156,000 just three years after graduation. The opportunities given by these foreign universities spurs private sector companies such as Dubai Airports, Aramex, Unilever, or Disney to provide Abu Dhabi business school students with practical expertise in the final track of their studies.

Another important contribution is the rising number of scholarships available in the Emirate. Current figures show that around 20% of university students in the UAE are receiving some form of scholarship for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, with the majority of these incentives being offered to meritorious and financially challenged students.

The presence of these global educative players has also spurred on secondary and tertiary education providers. As Miguel Sousa Lobo, Director of INSEAD Abu Dhabi, put it, “One of the most encouraging factors for the long term is the progress made in the quality of the elementary schools and high schools here,” he expressed. “ADEC is introducing international benchmarks with its new curriculum and this is having an impact on the quality of the education young people are receiving in the Emirate.”

The reforms passed by ADEC in 2015 unified the curriculum to ensure each student spends 21 periods a week studying STEM subjects. This reform has laid the foundations to provide international universities with the fertile minds needed to satisfy the future demands of the economy.