ON THE BALANCE

Dubai 2016 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Imran Khan, CEO of City University College of Ajman, on the major achievements of the institution and the importance of its programs.

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

Rather than pinpointing one specific achievement, I believe we have shown balanced growth and positive overall development. We started operations in 2012 with three undergraduate programs and we have come a long way within a span of less than four years. Currently, we are offering 11 different majors at the undergraduate and graduate levels, including a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Law. We have been growing organically, attracting top class faculty members from all over the world. Today, we can boast of a culturally diverse campus environment with students hailing from 40 different nationalities.

Which ones of your programs have seen the highest demand?

We make sure that we offer programs that are job centric and driven by market demand, hence all our programs have been successful to date. While on one hand there is a substantial demand for academic degrees that are relevant to the government sector among the Emirati population, on the other hand the business administration program is excessively popular among our expatriate students.

Are you planning on launching any new programs?

Yes, we recently launched our MBA program with five specializations and a Master 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 have plans for offering courses in IT and Software Engineering along with some other majors. We launch each program after conducting a thorough feasibility study and assessing job market trends and demand for programs.

What is the University's internationalization strategy?

At City University College of Ajman we offer an environment that is conducive to the growth of a diversified student population. As I said, we have students from 40 different nationalities and it is a true reflection of the overall UAE society, which is very international and diverse. We are attracting 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 have formed several international alliances that include an articulation agreement with Mantissa College, Malaysia, whereby our students can complete the final two years of their Bachelor's program at the said university. We also have an agreement with the International Students Exchange Program (ISEP), an entity based in Washington, DC with 300 partner universities worldwide. The agreement with ISEP gives our students a chance 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.

In what ways is City University College of Ajman fermenting relationships between academia and work experience?

We have many faculty members who carry 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 give our students an extra edge. We strongly believe that in order to make them into competent, well-rounded professionals we must ensure that our students have firsthand experience of their chosen career paths. To give you an example, we have a partnership with R Hotels, the hospitality division of R Holding. 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 from Housekeeping and Front Office to IT and Revenue Management. 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 they intern at.

How is City University College of Ajman helping develop higher education in Ajman?

Ajman has always been a preferred destination for higher education. With institutions like the Ajman University, the biggest private University in UAE, and Thumbay Group's Gulf Medical College, Ajman has always attracted students not only from all over UAE but from the rest of the region as well. City University College of Ajman, though relatively new on the scene, is still playing a significant role in the development of higher education in the Emirate. We do not to compromise on the quality of our programs or our faculty. We currently have students coming from all seven Emirates, as well as different parts of the world. To ensure that we include all tiers of society, we offer various grants, allowances, and work-study opportunities under the Sheikh Rashid Bin Humaid Scholarship Program.

In what areas will you be investing your resources?

We are in the process of building a new purpose-built campus. The investment is going to be about AED100 million. Construction will start by the end of this year and, after completion of the first phase, the campus will accommodate approximately 7,000 students. We also plan to invest in Research and Development 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. They have done a tremendous job in shaping up and laying down the framework for higher education in the country. I strongly believe 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.