HITTING THE BOOKS

Dubai 2016 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Imran Khan, CEO of City University College of Ajman (CUCA), on going global, helping students get real-life work experience, and expansion plans.

Imran Khan

What have been the major achievements of the university since its establishment?

We have shown a balanced growth and positive overall development. We started operations in 2012 with three undergraduate programs and have come a long way in less than four years. Currently, we offer 11 different majors at the undergraduate and graduate level. We have been growing organically, attracting top-class faculty members from all over the world. Today, we boast of a culturally diverse campus environment with students hailing from 40 different countries.

Do you plan to launch any new programs?

We recently launched our MBA program and a master's of law program with majors in public and private law. We plan to expand our program portfolio in 2016-17 by further diversifying it. We will offer courses in IT and software engineering along with other majors. We launch each program after conducting a thorough feasibility study and assessing the job market trends and demand for the programs.

What is the university's internationalization strategy?

At CUCA we offer an environment that is conducive to the growth of a diversified student population. We have students from 40 different nationalities and this is a true reflection of the overall UAE society, which is international and diverse. We attract students not only from the expat community within the UAE but also directly from various countries, specifically Asia and Africa. To support the internationalization of the college, we formed several alliances that include an articulation agreement with Mantissa College in Malaysia, whereby our students can complete the final two years of their bachelors program at the college there. We also have an agreement with the International Students Exchange Program (ISEP), an entity based in Washington D.C. with 300 partner universities worldwide. The agreement with ISEP gives our students the opportunity to gain international exposure by studying abroad for one or two semesters at any of the partner universities under stipulated guidelines. We are among the few universities in the UAE affiliated with ISEP.

How does CUCA encourage interactions between academia and work experience?

We have many faculty members who have industry experience along with impressive academic profiles. They impart their knowledge and expertise in the classroom by using industry-specific information and real-life case studies, which gives our students an extra edge. To help them become competent, well-rounded professionals, we must ensure that our students have firsthand experience of their chosen career paths. For example, we have a partnership agreement with R Hotels, the hospitality division of R Holding, in which students from our hospitality and tourism management program can avail internship opportunities at any hotel under the R Hotels group, gaining experience in all departments. It enables them to get a better feel of a live working environment in the hospitality sector. We plan to replicate such partnerships with companies relevant to the other programs as well, enabling our students to experience more real-life scenarios and to shape them into suitable candidates for employment at the companies with whom they intern.

In what areas will you be investing your resources?

We are building a new purpose-built campus. The investment will be about AED100 million. Construction will start by the end of 2016 and, after completion of the first phase, the campus will accommodate approximately 7,000 students. We also plan to invest in R&D activities, along with improving student facilities and augmenting the overall level of institutional effectiveness.

How will higher education evolve in the next five years?

In the last decade or so, higher education in the UAE has undergone a rapid transformation. The credit goes to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) of the UAE. It has done a tremendous job in shaping and laying down the framework for higher education in the country. The sector will grow further in the next few years. We can expect to see the UAE as a destination of choice for higher education regionally and internationally.