What is the role of the university in the Omani educational landscape right now?
NABILA AL MACKI The pandemic has been a tough situation for all the institutions, and Majan University College has extended its support to the community as well as our students so that their education can continue. Majan was able to switch immediately to teaching online, so there were no disruptions at all. Majan University College is affiliated to the University of Bedfordshire in the UK, so we had a series of meetings internally, with our affiliated university and the external examiners in the UK. The positive thing to come from this situation is that we were able to set an example, lead, and share these good practices with other institutions. All of us were trying something different in a rapidly-changing environment but we learned from each other and made sure the hard work of students across the country was not in vain.
HUSSAIN AL SALMI At OES, we had to convert everything to online learning, which taught us a great deal. We did the digital transformation much faster than planned and continued with education online, without any major challenges. As soon as the Ministry of Education authorized students to come back to campus, we opened again. Some students did not have internet access, because they lived in rural areas, while for some, their internet speed was too slow. Thus, we had to work with the Ministry of Higher Education to make an exemption for those students and postpone their studies for one semester. What is key is our relationship with our partners, at the school level with our Finnish partners and at the university level with our German partners, as we get the best solutions from abroad.
What steps are you taking in order to prepare students for the changing job market?
NAM The needs of students and the job market are always changing. Our curriculum and assessments are based on critical thinking, problem solving, and applications. We also introduce elements of what is needed in the current job market and what will prepare students for the future. We have introduced IT programs featuring app development, coding, and a range of fintech options to ensure our education remains relevant. We have secured international accreditations to add value to the courses and benefit our students in their careers. Our accounting program is accredited by ACCA and our business administration and our marketing programs are accredited by CIM, which allows graduates to take their qualifications global as part of an international body. We have an industry-based panel for each program and faculty, to whom we present our curriculum, discuss where we can improve, and receive feedback on the skills they require from our students. All our undergraduate and postgraduate programs are validated and approved by the University of Bedfordshire (UK) and then approved by the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
What pushed you to create a technology transfer office?
HAS The technology transfer office aims to strengthen the connection between academia with industry. The objective of the new office is to have a strong link with the job market, in Oman and beyond, as well as enhance our capabilities when it comes to patent registrations, IP issues, project development, and consultancy. It also opens the doors to our students, because they have amazing ideas, though they do not know who can support them. This office looks into their projects, and if they believe they have potential, they will take them further, helping them step by step to make a business out of the idea. It will also be linked to the Oman Hydrogen Center (OHC), which is part of the university, and the Indian Ocean Center. We are working on developing a third center, called the Building Technology Center, which will research building materials and technology, like 3D printing and building printers. We also have a commercial project within the university that will be like a shopping area and a built-in 3D printer.