What have been the two main achievements of the university during these 10 years?
Firstly, RAKMHSU started with 22 students and now we have more than 1,200, representing 48 nationalities. Secondly, all our programs—dental, medical, and pharmaceutical and nursing undergraduate programs and master's in pharmacy and nursing—are fully accredited by the Commission for Academic Accreditation at the Ministry for Higher Education. In such a short period of time, the level of growth that has taken place is enough to make anyone proud. It is really remarkable, and fortunately we are now also one of the most preferred destinations not only in the UAE, but also in the entire Middle East, for students who want to pursue the health sciences profession.
How are you looking to develop and what aspects are the university focusing on?
The main focus is to stabilize our academic programs, such as the curriculum, exams, and assessments, in addition to infrastructure. Initially we were in a temporary building, and in 2009 we moved to this building, and since then we have added two new blocks; one is the academic block and the other is a large sports complex. RAK College of Dental Sciences has its own state-of-the-art building. At RAKMHSU we believe that research is an important part of the whole spectrum of student and faculty life in order to get global recognition. Research is a must if a university wants to be recognized among top-ranking universities. In UAE, it is an area that is growing with more and more people recognizing its importance, even though the funding is one of the important requirements. We still make efforts to engage in research based on our budget and by establishing associations with other universities.
What impact will the ministerial changes have on higher education?
Fortunately, the UAE government has recognized the need for quality education that meets international standards. There is no confusion in that respect, so naturally whatever it is doing is in line with the strategy of maintaining quality of education.
How would you evaluate RAK's current higher education regulatory environment?
The Commission for Academic Accreditation is under the Minister for Education, which implements the accreditation process across the Emirates. There are some institutions that are outside the parameters of this Commission, for example institutions operating within the free zones. But in Dubai, for example, the authorities have come up with their own regulations for institutions in the free zones. All academic institutions outside the free zones must go through a process called the Licensing & Accreditating process. We apply to the Commission, it sends a team of international experts to undertake an assessment, and then it gives its approval to start the program. We welcome all of these processes as they maintain international standards.
Looking ahead, how do you see higher education developing in the next five years?
Even in times of recession there are two things that tend to remain unaffected; one is education and the other is health. That is for the simple reason that parents know that they have to educate their children, even if they are struggling financially. No country is willing to allow either sector to fail, as both are vital to the functioning of society. Higher education has become a necessity and education is considered as the most important tool to empower society.
Considering the high level of competition that exists among universities in the UAE, what can RAKMHSU offer students?
If you take into consideration that someone coming from Dubai bypasses three medical colleges, four pharmacy colleges, and three dental colleges, and still comes to our university, that means that we have something special. Our management is unique, honest, and transparent; there are no compromises. The students from 48 nationalities & faculty from 26 nationalities are living harmoniously and focusing on delivering quality education.
Do you see a positive future for Ras Al Khaimah?
The main philosophy of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member & Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, who is also the chancellor of the university, is that unless you bring in expertise and quality education, the country cannot progress and the easiest and most effective way of empowering people is through education. He wanted to establish educational institutions that deliver quality education, which will also ensure that students do not leave the country seeking quality institutions elsewhere. These institutions are now available in RAK and, in fact, they attract students from abroad, too. This, in turn, has a highly positive effect on tourism and economy. For the last 10 years, tourism has increased considerably, and education is playing an important role in that. For example, once a student joins us from another country, eventually all the members of their family will visit. The scholarships from the Sheikh Saqr Program for Government Excellence (SSPGE), under the patronage of HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr al Qasimi, to the nationals to study in dental, medical, and the pharmacy programs and the full scholarship for nursing from the Ministry of Health also helping to attract nationals to RAKMHSU. Thus, RAKMHSU is not just an academic institution; it is also playing an important role in social change, too.