May. 7, 2020

Prof. Abdul Rahim Sabouni

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Prof. Abdul Rahim Sabouni

President & CEO, Emirates College of Technology (ECT)

As a result of the global shift in accreditation and quality control, ECT works with industry leaders to formulate strategy and best practices.


Prof. Abdul Rahim Sabouni is the President and CEO of ECT. He holds a PhD from Cornell University and a master's degree from George Washington University in structural engineering. He has more than 30 years of academic and professional experience in the US, Canada, and the Middle East. He assumed teaching, research, and/or adjunct faculty positions at several universities including Damascus University, UAE University, Ryerson University, Western University, and Carleton University. He is a registered professional engineer in Ontario, fellow of the American Concrete Institute (ACI), the founding president of the ACI-UAE Chapter, fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and president of the ASCE-UAE Section, and fellow chartered construction manager CIOB, UK.

Can you provide an overview of ECT and where it is situated in Abu Dhabi's higher education landscape?
ECT is a private university accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and has been in operation for almost 25 years. We started with a small institution and quickly developed into a leading institution. It now has 1,800 students and offers 20 academic degrees, 16 bachelor's degrees, and four diplomas. At present, ECT has four faculties: medical and health sciences, media, business, and engineering. Our student population is two-thirds Emirati, divided almost equally between males and females. The opening of our new state-of-the-art campus in the heart of Abu Dhabi will allow us to accommodate more programs and significantly increase our overall capacity. It will enable us to apply the latest technology while also addressing the future demands of the labor market.

What factors are shaping the expansion of ECT and how do changes in the labor market affect curriculum design?
There is a growing awareness that the job market is undergoing significant change, especially within the context of the fourth industrial revolution. This has prompted us to offer our newly accredited engineering and health sciences programs that reflect these changes. Several feasibility studies have also guided us to diversify and develop programs that will accommodate the future needs of students. The higher education sector cannot respond as quickly to these changes as other sectors. There are rigorous quality control and accreditation measures in place. Currently, the UAE has more than 80 academic institutions that are accredited by the higher education commission for academic accreditation (CAA), offering more than 1,000 academic programs. There has been a global shift in accreditation and quality control, from controlling the input of the programs to become results based. We need to focus on skills that the students will need in the future. The most important part is the outcome, and there is a component of added feedback from the industry. Beng results-based makes curriculum design more flexible and can accommodate some innovations and some ideas rather than being input-based. Responding to changes is embedded in our motto: We prepare for future careers.

In what ways do you engage with the private sector and industry leaders to ensure the curriculum applies to the job market?
To ensure compliance with quality control and accreditation processes, we have an industry advisor's council for each of our four faculties. It is the task of advisors to formulate strategy and best practices to ensure our programs are appropriate for the sectors they represent. Furthermore, we have a strong alumni network with many of our graduates serving in key positions across the economic spectrum. This interaction further allows us to leverage industry expertise in areas of curriculum design.

How do you assess the level of engagement between UAE-based higher education institutions and their international counterparts?
In addition to our faculty, we also draw on the expertise of academic consultants from international universities. This is particularly important in program development. For example, our newly accredited engineering programs have been designed to be compatible with international accreditation standards, and accordingly, ECT will be ready to apply upon graduation of the first batch of students to the ABET accreditation of its engineering programs. The accreditation process is overseen by the CAA Ministry of Education. Every single program undergoes a thorough review by a specialized external review team supervised by CAA. This is comprised of internationally renowned participants from abroad, usually industry and education leaders. They assess the program before it goes into initial accreditation, then repeated for final accreditation. In addition, the Centre for Continued Education (CEC) forms an integral part of the college. This entity serves the provision for short courses.