DYNAMIC PARTNERSHIPS WITH INDUSTRY TO HELP DEVELOP CURRICULA

Saudi Arabia 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdulaziz bin Ali Al-Tuwaijri, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Dar Al Uloom University (DAU), on higher education in Saudi Arabia, Vision 2030, and accreditation.

How do you fit into the higher education landscape of Saudi Arabia?

DAU has been following a strategic direction to position itself at the cutting edge of higher education in the region, and this was largely through attaining the accreditation of the National Commission for Academic Accreditation and Assessment (NCAAA) in 2017. Achieving accreditation was the culmination of years of hard work and development. DAU has invested heavily in recruiting and retaining high-value faculty who are considered leaders in their fields. This high caliber of faculty allows for groundbreaking research in our colleges. The combination of our faculty and their research facilitates DAU's partnerships with local and international giants of education and industry to come together to continue to ensure DAU provides sustained and valuable services to the local community. DAU is proud to be considered a leader and trendsetter in the higher education landscape of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Your curriculum is developed in consultation with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Management (KFUPM). How has this collaboration developed, and what is the impact on the development of students?

KFUPM is one of our distinguished partners, and we are proud of our mutually beneficial relationship. In recent years, there has been universal acceptance amongst leading universities that teach soft skills, and critical thinking is of paramount importance and needs to be a core component of a student's learning experience. DAU ensures that core soft skills, such as citizenship, innovation, and the development personal values, are clearly embedded into curricula to ensure DAU graduates have the highest value in the market and are fully capable of meeting the demands of the 21st century society and the responsibility of Vision 2030.

How do you envision striving to align graduate employability with industry requirements graduate employability, particularly in line with Vision 2030?

DAU relishes the heavy responsibility that Vision 2030 places on higher education. DAU graduates already enjoy tremendous rates of employability; however, the university is in a continuous process of increasing alignment between DAU graduate skills and workplace requirements through a blend of strategic partnerships and learning communities. DAU strives to fill the gap in the market by constantly developing and creating solutions to market challenges and producing the graduates needed to meet the goal of Saudization and Vision 2030. DAU consultations with the business world allow direct input from industry on curricula content and projects, and a significant budget is allocated for serving the community through research. For example, in recent years, DAU responded to the market and now operates two new colleges: the state-of-the-art College of Medicine and College of Dentistry. Vision 2030 demands the highest standards from DAU, and we ensure these standards through successfully achieving external validation through accreditation by bodies such as the NCAAA and, for its college of law, the High Council for Evaluation of Research and Higher Education (HCERES). Furthermore, DAU encourages students to actively participate in learning communities to promote personal development before they graduate. This blend of external and internal strategies makes DAU optimistic with regards to achieving the objectives of Vision 2030.

Furthermore, Vision 2030 aims to build a knowledge-based society. What role does research play in your university, and what are your primary focus areas?

Vision 2030 will ensure the Kingdom is a knowledge-based society, and DAU is playing a critical role in this regard. DAU has invested heavily in upgrading the education and skills of its students to enhance the Kingdom's human capital. DAU has always been committed to serving the community and regularly participates in training programs, debate competitions, and other community service programs. Furthermore, DAU also views its partnerships with industry essential to building a knowledge-based community. DAU's dynamic partnerships ensure industry help develop curricula to prepare DAU students for swift employment, and DAU's faculty cultivate student's skills and capabilities through its cutting edge educational instruction and programs.

A global trend in education is to have more digital classrooms and blended learning facilities. What is your vision for digitalization and innovation within the university?

DAU understood several years ago that remaining relevant and a leader in higher education requires continual leverage and exploitation of new digital technology tools. DAU developed a strategy to ensure digital technologies are part of every department and technology opportunities are open to all students and faculty. At DAU, every student and staff member has access to a state-of-the-art online platform for all their academic and professional needs; they can access the platform any time and from any place in addition to our world class digital library. DAU's strategy does not see its digitalization efforts as a stand-alone component, but rather, it is at the core of the organization's business strategy. In this age, DAU believes that universities that do not prepare themselves for the digital era will be left behind. Those who are determined to remain leaders in the sector know that the time to act has already begun.

What is your agenda with regards to internationalization of staff, students, and programs?

DAU's strategy is not simply to expand its internationalization initiatives, but to maintain its existing position in the higher education field, and our recent success in achieving accreditation from the NCAAA will support our efforts. DAU has always built and developed its internationalization programs to students and faculty. DAU has invested in attracting the most qualified and experienced educators to collaborate with our distinguished national faculty members, which has allowed DAU to successfully obtain internationally recognized accreditation for our university and also our College of Law. This allows a blend of national and international culture, knowledge, and experience to support DAU students throughout their time with us, exposing them to the real, multicultural world that awaits them upon graduation. DAU students are a diverse group of national and international students who share experiences and social mores together building modern, forward thinking individuals capable of making a positive change in the world.

What are your primary ambitions for the years ahead?

DAU's ambitions for the years ahead are a continuation of the core beliefs of the university since its inception: quality of education through national and international program accreditation feeding into production of valuable research to serve the demands, needs, and rights of the community. DAU will work continuously to support Vision 2030 and will be a guiding light to the Kingdom and beyond. DAU will continue to grow its culture of quality throughout every step we take, from the planning to the implementation of everything we do. DAU will not tire from seeking further internationally recognized accreditation for its various programs and colleges and is looking forward to the third successful visit by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB) in early 2018. DAU will strive to create and promote research opportunities for faculty and support, through funding, the research process, serving the local community and contributing to the development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its citizens.