LESSONS IN SYNERGIES

Dubai 2018 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohammad Abdullah, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) & Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP), on initiatives at DIAC, synergies within the education sector, and the latest trends.

Mohammad Abdullah
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammad Abdullah serves as Managing Director of DIAC and DKP, Dubai’s principal vehicles for advancing academic learning and corporate training. He is responsible for aligning over 500 businesses and 27 universities with Dubai’s long-term strategy for creating a sustainable, knowledge-based economy. Abdullah was formerly Managing Director of TECOM Group’s Media Cluster comprising of Dubai Media City, Dubai Production City, and Dubai Studio City. Drawing on two decades of journalistic experience, Mohammad built a thriving media community of 1,800 companies. Prior to joining TECOM Group, he was Executive Vice-President of CNBC Arabiya and also held key media roles with Emirates Media Inc. and Abu Dhabi Television.

How is DIAC progressing at the moment?

Since it was established in 2007, DIAC has been growing year after year. We have more than 25,000 students of 150 nationalities, with 27 international and local universities offering 487 degrees. In 2017, we announced the launch of four leading universities at DIAC: Curtin University (Australia), University of Birmingham (UK), Abu Dhabi University, and United Arab Emirates University. We also began construction on a new campus for University of Wollongong in Dubai, a testament to the growth of the international higher education sector in Dubai. As part of our efforts to ensure our students succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we consistently seek outstanding academic partners to complement our diverse higher education community. We ensure that these universities offer programs suited to the demands of the region and aim to build a community that shares best practices. We also host regular events and activities such as the DIAC Sports Festival, DIAC Career Fair, and our DIAC Open Day. One major initiative that stood out in 2017 was our partnership with BMI Media, an education event management company. We recently partnered with them to launch a market research study, titled, “Transnational Student Mobility and Future Employment Trends in 2017." The objective of the study was to provide a better understanding of international student needs and future employment preferences across a wide selection of developing countries in the GCC, Asia, and South America. This study provided a roadmap for international universities looking to attract international students from developing nations. It is through these types of initiatives that we aim to innovate and best prepare our academic partners for the demands and trends in the higher education sector.

What significant synergies are there between the two free zones?

Between DIAC and DKP, we cover most of the higher education lifecycle, from higher education through to training, vocational education, and continued learning and development. Education and human resources are often paired together as these two industries share many synergies. DIAC and DKP are part of the larger TECOM Group, which includes various other business parks focused on sectors such as ICT and media, and as such, the most important component for any sector is human resources. DKP was founded to cater to the requirements of these sectors by developing, talent, skills, and capabilities that other sectors need; it is the only HR free zone in the world. Coupled with the integrated entrepreneurial innovation platform in5, as well as legislation that allows students to work part time, the education experience offered by DIAC is highly integrated and applicable, giving students the right exposure and experience to succeed in an increasingly competitive world in the long term. We also explore the synergies between higher education and vocational training. Amongst our partners at DIAC and DKP, I believe we offer the appropriate training and education to fulfill the major training and business requirements needed by the local and regional economy.

What trends do you see in your sector?

One trend we are seeing worldwide is the rise of and demand for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. I believe our universities are heading in the right direction by offering programs that meet the demand for qualified graduates especially in the fields of AI, engineering, and automation. Universities also need to look into entrepreneurship. More people are now moving away from working for the government; they want to work in the private or semi-private sectors because they see the potential for growth and to expand their knowledge. Another trend we noticed from our DIAC market research study is that international students are looking for degrees and activities that actively provide the students with employment opportunities. Students recognize that international higher education is a significant investment and expect returns on this investment.