BY THE BOOKS

Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim, President of the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK), on its emphasis on quality education, its expansion plans, and attracting more universities to the Emirate.

Prof. Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim
BIOGRAPHY
Prof. Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim held several positions before being appointed President of AURAK, including the Chair of the RAK Research and Follow-Up Authority, Director-General of RAK Economic Development Department, and advisor to the RAK government. He received his bachelor of arts in political science, magna cum laude, from Seattle University, and a master of arts and doctorate of philosophy in international relations from the University of Exeter. He was earlier with the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU).

In what areas does AURAK specialize?

We currently have 22 degree programs, of which 18 are undergraduate and four at the master's level. Our programs match the market needs, and for this reason our main schools are engineering and business. We also have arts and sciences school, in which we have three undergraduate courses and one graduate course. AURAK aims to provide an alternative to the students not only of Ras Al Khaimah, but also of the region. We are one of the few universities that offer certain programs such as petroleum and chemical engineering. We also embarked on international partnership and signed an agreement with Nebraska University to offer a concentration in hospitality and tourism. Tourism and hospitality is an important specialization, especially when the whole UAE and Ras Al Khaimah in particular, place emphasis on tourism as one of the pillars of development. AURAK launched a series of cooperative agreements with a number of US institutions to encourage the study abroad and faculty exchange program.

How does AURAK ensure quality education for its students?

AURAK has a good reputation thanks to unique programs and low fees that do not compromise on quality. AURAK enjoys institutional local accreditation and all its programs are accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education. At the same time, we work on international accreditation such as ABET for the engineering programs. So far, we have received an encouraging report for two of our programs, and we expect to get the final approval in 2016. We have already applied for a third program for next year. Our school of business recently became a member of the AASCB, and, in three years, we aim to receive the school accreditation. At the institutional level, we are working to accredit the institution with the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS COC) in the US. Furthermore, we take the credentials of our faculty members seriously. Our faculty is diversified. We are lucky in the UAE because there are many people who want to come and live in the UAE, and want to link their name with a good institution; for that reason, our research profile has grown tremendously.

Does AURAK plan to undertake any infrastructure developments?

We have a comprehensive master plan that was approved by the Board of Trustee in January 2016. Recently, a new building was opened that encompasses a gym, a cafeteria, a recreation center, auditorium, a conference room, and a nice lounge. It will also have some classrooms and an ICT center for technological education that is subsidized by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority. It also hosts the school of engineering and the school of graduate studies and research. Campus development is a continuous process to improve the infrastructure, the landscaping, and to modernize, upgrade, and renovate the existing buildings and construct new ones. We aim to link industry with academia through creating partnerships with companies such as Julphar, Stevin Rock, or RAK Bank. The latter works with us to construct a new school for business. Our master plan involves individual buildings for all our schools and we hope to unveil new projects by next year. Needless to say, we plan to have more schools, more programs, and more degrees. Hopefully, in a few years, we will finalize our institutional accreditation with SACS COC and embark on a new era of development for the university.

Will we see more universities establishing themselves in RAK?

I see no harm in having new universities opening their doors in RAK. Competition can drive AURAK to be innovative, and having a competitor would force us to produce higher-quality graduates. Competition is always in the interest of the investors, and when I say investors, I mean students, families, or sponsors. If they are going to work in free trade zone institutions, the Ras Al Khaimah government will still have to have a regulatory authority to maintain standards.