TBY talks to Prof. Reyadh Almehaideb, Vice President of Zayed University, on entrepreneurial programs, achievements in the sector, and the labor market.

Prof. Reyadh Almehaideb
Prof. Reyadh Almehaideb obtained his PhD in petroleum engineering from Stanford University, USA, in 1989. He joined the UAE University as a faculty member in the College of Engineering, where he was promoted to Associate Professor in 1997 and to Professor in 2005. He served in various capacities as Chair of the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department, Assistant Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, Associate Dean, and from 2006-2013 as the Dean of the College of Engineering, a period that witnessed 50% growth in enrollment in bachelor programs, a multifold expansion in graduate programs and research within the college, and the ABET accreditation for the engineering programs at the UAEU.

What have been Zayed University's milestones over the last year, and what major changes has the university undergone?

The most important measure of any higher education institute is quality, and we achieve that through the accreditation process that we have in place for all of our programs. This is one of our first priorities as the youngest federal university, having been established in 1998. Zayed University has completed the process of international accreditation and recognition from US-based bodies for the majority of its academic programs. This process started in 2008 with the institutional accreditation by the Middle State Commission for Higher Education (MSCHE), one of the regional accreditation boards in the US. Then, the process of program-based accreditations started with our College of Business programs obtaining AACSB accreditation in 2012, while College of Education programs achieved NCATE accreditation the same year and was the first college to achieve that outside of the US. Thereafter, two of our College of IT programs completed the ABET accreditation in 2014; our College of Arts and Creative Enterprises obtained substantial equivalency from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) in 2015; and the College of Communications obtained accreditation with ACEJMC, the accrediting body for colleges of communication and mass media in the US, in 2015.

The local labor market in the UAE faces a shortage of graduates in certain areas of expertise while it is saturated in others. How is Zayed University addressing this issue?

Generally, our programs align well with the job market and in certain areas where we can adjust enrollment to meet the job market needs, we will do this by providing new options. The largest area in the job market is business with around 30% of jobs, and this is matched by the business college attracting 25-30% of the university's students, mainly in the areas of accounting, finance, human resources, and marketing. The second largest area is engineering and technology with a 25% share of the job market. We are introducing engineering alongside the already existing IT majors to cater to this segment of the job market. Beyond these two broad areas, other segments such as science, communication, and law occupy anywhere from 4-8% of the job market. To differentiate Zayed University graduates in all disciplines, we are refocusing on what people refer to as “new millennium skills” in all our programs. People classify these skills differently, but they usually cover critical thinking, interpersonal skills such as communication, ethical conduct, group work, and lifelong learning and knowledge of contemporary issues and the latest technologies.

What are some of Zayed University's initiatives regarding entrepreneurial programs and innovation in learning?

At Zayed University, we have our general entrepreneurship education, which is part of the core program to all students. Apart from that, each discipline has its own approach to entrepreneurship. For example, students in the College of Business are required to develop case studies and create a business plan for their capstone, students in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises couple their senior design project with a business plan, and so on. As an institution, we have cooperation agreements with a number of incubators and groups outside of campus because they provide the spaces for entrepreneurs to grow and the mentorship to help them in this endeavor. Furthermore, each Spring, we have a business fair on campus where around 120 companies, mostly owned by alumni, exhibit and market their products, while some are owned by current students who study and work. This platform inspires others to become entrepreneurs, especially as we also have booths for the regulator and funding agencies for SMEs. Our alumni survey shows that around 11% of our graduates work in the private sector, but we are making every effort possible to increase this percentage with support from the community.