Jul. 8, 2015

Prof. Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq

UAE, Dubai

Prof. Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq

CEO, American University in the Emirates (AUE)

TBY talks to Prof. Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq, President and CEO of the American University in the Emirates (AUE), on identifying market demand, increasing graduates' employability, and closing the gap between theory and practice.


Prof. Muthanna G. Abdul Razzaq has served as the President of the American University in the Emirates (AUE) since its inception in 2006. He completed his Bachelor’s in Business Administration and Accounting in 1976 from Al Mustansirya University and went on to receive his post graduate diploma in Cost Accounting in 1979 from Baghdad University. He finished his PhD in Management Accounting from the University of Manchester Intitute and Technology (UK). His passion for educational excellence led him to the establishment of Abu Dhabi University in 2000 as a founder and one of the owners. Prof. Muthanna also served in various capacities such as Chairman of Academic Committee, Member of the Board of Trustees, Vice President for Scientific Research, Member of the Board of Governors, and Vice Chancellor for Administrative Financial Affairs at Abu Dhabi University.

What are the most pressing needs that currently divide the higher education sector, and what is American University's strategy to close that gap?

With the announcement of World EXPO 2020, Dubai has some ambitious plans indeed. The vision of the leaders in Dubai is always to be number one. At AUE we support the national agenda by assessing the market needs and developing the required academic program. We have established highly active advisory boards of people from the industry who advise academics on the demands of the market. These boards support the objectives of the program, making it more relevant to the market and enhancing graduates' employability. In other words, they help us in the development and improvement of our current programs by teaching our graduates the skills they need. The challenge is to strategically form the kind of programs that will help our graduates compete in the market. We need to get away from the concept that universities only concentrate on theory. A university should bridge the gap between theory and practice. At this university, we have also added a third dimension of soft skills. Graduates with knowledge, experience, and skills should be initiative takers. When a student graduates, he or she should have a solid conceptual framework plus the right skills and experience. They should be creative, critical, and persuasive communicators. In summary, we are identifying market demand on a yearly basis to offer programs that really meet those demands.

How does this strategy work day to day?

The university intends to provide the the students a taste of the real world from day one of their joining through experiential learning. The teaching pedagogy and the program delivery incorporates lab sessions, field trips, and mandatory participation in extensive seminars and workshops. However, we are also noticing that the onsite training for some students is not very useful. For example, law students were sent to Dubai court to complete internships. They were not involved with real cases because they were not trusted with confidential matters. Instead, they observed and did menial tasks. The students were not given on-the-job training, so we started offering the internship in two parts, internally and externally. At AUE we have established a mock court. We signed an agreement with Dubai court and many renowned legal firms. We choose closed cases and remove the names of the parties. Students take the cases, then present and defend them in simulated conditions against a real prosecutor. As you know, the law in this country is in Arabic, and we also offer courses to improve public speaking and pronunciation.

What are some of AUE's programs that employ a critical-thinking based approach with students?

We offer unique programs that are in high demand in the market, such as digital forensics, used to solve cyber crimes; network security; and Information Technology Management (ITM), useful to counter the issue of people's lack of skills to manage IT resources. We also offer a Master's degree in Diplomacy and another in International Relations, the first of its kind in the region. Most of these graduates assume high profile leading postions. We have Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Security and Strategic Studies, which is unique in nature and not offered commonly. We work hard to deliver quality programs; this will keep us in the market. Quality is necessary for survival.

What are your expectations for the coming year?

Our goal over the coming year is to continue to strive to be one of the top universitites through offering quality, unique, multi-disciplinary programs. In addition, we want to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning, training, and research.