37TH OF 1,200 ARAB UNIVERSITIES

Bahrain 2021 | EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Ghassan F. Aouad, President of the Applied Science University (ASU), on subjects, international students, and strategies for the coming year.

What have been the main milestones ASU during the past 15 years, and can you tell us more about ASU's undergraduate and graduate programs?

ASU was established in 2004 as a private university. ASU has three pillars: learning and teaching, research, and community engagement. Then, we have supportive pillars: quality, student support, internationalization through partnerships, and sustainable growth. ASU has grown over the years and in 2013, the university campus moved from Juffair to Sitra. The university is accredited by the Higher Education Council (HEC). We have achieved two types of ISO certifications: ISO 9001 2015, which is related to administrative processes, and the ISO 21001:2018, which is related to educational organizations' management systems and academic processes. We are amongst the first universities in Bahrain and among the few in the Arab region to acquire these certifications. In the QS World University Ranking for 2020, ASU is ranked 37th out of the 1,200 universities in the Arab region and we achieved four stars in the QS rating system. Under the Times Higher Education (THE) University Impact Rankings, ASU is ranked 301+; this ranking measures how universities meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Moreover, we are ranked 25 in the Arab region under the Green Metric World University Rankings, which look at universities regarding sustainability, green, and efficient practices, and use of resources. ASU is accredited with the Higher Education Academy (HEA) from the UK; we train our staff with UK certification and external assessment. 53 of our staff are associate, fellows, senior fellows, or principal fellows of the HEA in the UK. There are only 1,000 principal fellows in the world and we have one at our university. This is a major achievement for us. ASU has 18 programs in total, 13 undergraduate programs and five master's programs. We offer master's in human resource management, business administration, accounting and finance, law, and commercial law. We are the only university in Bahrain that offers political science courses in Arabic. A number of our graduates go on to work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and embassies. Notably, we offer British Programs in association with London South Bank University (architectural design engineering, and civil and construction engineering) and Cardiff Met University. In addition, ASU offers programs in law, MIS, business administration, accounting, accounting and finance, interior design, graphic design, and computer science, among others. Our students also excel in sports. For example, in 2019, we won the Bahrain Collegiate Athletics Association universities' football tournament. In terms of our students' academic achievements, we won the Injaz Company of the Year competition. We also represented Bahrain in the Injaz competition for the Arab region, and were among the top three institutes. Our students won the Boeing Excellence Award and the award for producing the best product in the Arab region. They produced an application to help with vehicle breakdowns. We hosted an international conference on sustainable futures in 2017 with London South Bank University, and in association with the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) and we hosted another one on 2019 on innovation, technology, enterprise and entrepreneurship. In total, we have about 3,000 students. We are one of the largest private universities in Bahrain. We have four colleges: Administrative Sciences, Arts and Science, Law, and Engineering, set up with London South Bank University. Our students study here and get their degrees from the UK. We are creating a culture of excellence, innovation, and creativity. We are mixing western and eastern values and making sure we are progressing in the right direction.

ASU is one of the leading private universities in Bahrain. How does ASU differentiate itself from the rest of universities?

Bahrain is a small country and the education sector here is highly competitive. Having achieved institution accreditation from the HEC will open more markets for us. In November 2019, we were recognized by Jordan's Ministry of Education, so now we can recruit students from Jordan. Moreover, Jordanians living in Bahrain can study at ASU and obtain degrees that are recognized in Jordan. We are working on recognition now by other nations. Internationalization is one of our overarching pillars and enablers. We explore the international market and our aim is to go beyond the Gulf region. At present, 85% of ASU's students are Bahraini locals and 15% are international expatriates and people living in Saudi Arabia who commute here daily. What makes us unique is the diversity of our programs and the use of Arabic and English languages. Our quality driver has allowed us to achieve good rankings, ISO certifications, and accreditations. All this helps us in our goal of becoming one of the best universities for locals and expats in Bahrain.

What are the plans and strategies for ASU in 2020 and beyond?

We have completed our Strategic Plan 2015-2020 and are now in the process of developing our 2020-2025 Plan. We aspire for international professional accreditation for our programs and possibly some new educational programs. Everything we do is driven by our strategy and we have a yearly operational plan with budgeting and feedback. The higher education sector is maturing and doing well in Bahrain, and we have played a vital role in that. The Ministry of education, the HEC and the BQA and vision 2030 strategies are guiding our thinking and future directions.