To stay ahead of the learning curve, universities in Dubai are offering an array of new programs in AI, big data, cloud computing, and even social media influencing, while exploring innovative ways to teach outside the classroom.

Ammar Kaka

Provost & Vice Principal, Heriot-Watt University Dubai campus

When we came here in 2005, several universities started at the same time. We have now grown to be the largest international university in the UAE. We want to continue to grow, not only in terms of student population but also in our research activity and academic enterprise activities. For that to happen, we will move into a new, 218,000-sqft state-of-the-art campus in Dubai Knowledge Park in 2021. We have approval to launch a further 10 programs as we continue to grow and bring new subject areas such as actuarial science, robotics, and data sciences. The recent arrival of universities from the UK and Australia will not only intensify the competition for local students, but also help to add to the reputation and visibility of Dubai's education hub, contributing to the growth of international students. We plan to significantly grow our research activity here in a number of areas. One is through establishing centers of excellence, the first one for smart construction, launched formally in 2019. Another area is entrepreneurship, and we are creating a new entrepreneurs club to spark excitement and student engagement. Another of our programs puts our first-year students into small groups, through which they present an innovative idea to an industry panel. In the US, most new employment opportunities come from companies that only started five years ago. This is exactly what the government here is keen to see.


David A. Schmidt

President, American University in Dubai (AUD

AUD was the first American-accredited institution of higher learning to be established in the UAE. Our journey to academic excellence was the result of the world-class partnerships that we forged in each of our schools. Our school of engineering was founded in partnership with Georgia Tech, our new executive MBA program was done in partnership with Cornell, and for media, we are associated with the University of Southern California. These foundational partnerships have shaped our uniquely American education model. We are proud to spearhead several initiatives and discussions with the top employers on how to bridge the gap between academia and industry. In Dubai Media City, our campus is strategically located in the heart of a community of hundreds of local and international companies such as Google, CNN, MBC, and MasterCard, to name a few. We pride ourselves on having academics with strong links to the industry, some still working and innovating within their fields, who then bring their insights into our classrooms. The big struggle for universities is their attachment to tradition, which can hinder their ability to be proactive and responsive to industry needs. However, we are trying to be more proactive in pushing our curriculum forward while maintaining academic excellence. We are also in the final stages of getting approved for a new undergraduate concentration and master's program in AI.


Randa Bessiso

Director - Middle East, The University of Manchester

When the University of Manchester wanted to set up a regional center in the Middle East, Dubai was the obvious choice. It is not just a regional hub for business, transport, trade, and tourism, but is also the only one with a purpose-built free zone for higher education. It clearly has a concentration of well-educated, motivated professionals who aspire to join a world-class global MBA program. It is a genuinely global program so students can follow it through our centers in Dubai, Manchester, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, and Brazil. We encourage students to travel across the network by helping to fund their workshops in other centers. We have introduced new modules specifically addressing the digital transformation of business, work, and the workplace. New electives include managing disruptive technologies, the digital economy, big data analysis, digital marketing, information systems, and more. We were one of the first educational institutions to be allowed to offer a joint MBA degree program by the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority, alongside Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. The program is concentrated online, though there is also a face-to-face element, and students go to the US to study and meet business leaders and even members of the US Congress. By harnessing technology, we aim to make Manchester learning opportunities accessible worldwide.


Imran Khan

President, City University College of Ajman (CUCA)

One of CUCA's latest achievements was the launch of our health sciences programs in dental surgery and pharmacy. We have equipped the first cohort with world-class labs that will enable them to put the knowledge they have gained into practice in using state-of-the-art facilities. In 2020, we plan to launch programs in smart technologies, such as AI, blockchain, and cloud computing. CUCA is committed to introducing new programs and educating students who can positively and effectively contribute to the job market domestically and internationally. Technology and innovation have been the main driving factors in transforming the UAE and the world at large. Our strategy is to modernize learning whereby students are effectively engaging with the industry and gaining real-life experiences to ensure they have an easy and successful transition to their future jobs. CUCA students across all disciplines are encouraged and required to visit local and international organizations as part of their learning process. Moving forward, our vision is to become a locally and internationally recognized university. Our objective will be to introduce new academic programs that are driven by the job market in the UAE and region. Our focus is on smart technologies, engineering, architecture, and medicine, and producing graduates that can contribute to a knowledge-based economy. We will also expand on our internationalization plan.


Mohamed Salem

President, University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD)

When we took this current space in Dubai Knowledge Park, we had a strong faculty of business and a few IT-related programs. We have grown to a comprehensive university with a full, strong faculty of engineering and computer science that requires more space and equipment. Additionally, one of the things I noticed was the growing need in Dubai for humanities and creative arts. That is our third faculty created in the past three years. The three main pillars at the university are now the faculty of business, the faculty of engineering, and the school of humanities and health, with programs in nursing, education, media communications, and international relations. In 2020, we seek to introduce the first federally accredited program in law taught in English. Based on the feedback we received from law firms in Dubai, there is no shortage of applicants for law positions, but one of quality applicants. There is a dimension of growth in terms of the university being a comprehensive institution that requires space. The other incentive that is pushing us to expand is the shift in the mode of delivery. The traditional mode was large lectures, tutorials, and personal interactions. The new generation is more about technology, blended learning, and group work. Something we will see with the new expansion is that space for academic offices will shrink, while the space for group work and student collaboration will grow substantially.


Eesa M. Bastaki

President & CEO, University of Dubai (UD)

There are a number of elements needed to advance R&D, the first and most crucial of which is strong, visionary leadership that supports this goal. Having this already in Dubai and the UAE, we then need to look at quality education, R&D capacities, incubation centers, and ICT infrastructure. The final element is future technologies, which we need to work on now to remain ahead. Emphasizing R&D capacities in particular is a challenge because most Arab countries look at R&D only within the context of academia. Several years ago, I began advocating for research and business development, which I call R&BD. I want to change the culture whereby we apply research, develop products, and advance markets. We already have many research centers, including one linked to the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, where we develop software packages and applications for its collected data. Another focus area is security, particularly in the area of nano-biotechnology. To address issues surrounding security, we have the Dubai Electronic Security Centre's research lab. We have applied to the Ministry of Higher Education to offer a master's degree in data science, covering the topic from various technical, business, and legal perspectives. Pending ministry approval, we will launch the program in September 2020. We have proposed 22 new degrees to the board, focused primarily on technology, innovation, and sustainability with a staggered rollout structure.


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