PRIVATE HIGHER EDUCATION

Sharjah 2020 | EDUCATION | B2B

Though quality, affordable higher education is still out of the reach of many, inroads are being made to address the sector's gaps.

Amitabh Upadhya
AMITABH UPADHYA
Director
Skyline University College (SUC)
Firoz Thairinil
FIROZ THAIRINIL
CEO
Westford Education Group

Have you made any recent significant achievements?

AMITABH UPADHYA Unlike the rest of the country, we did great in terms of enrollment in 2018. Moreover, in January 2018 we also started our IT school, adding our second faculty since the founding of the business school and the college's founding. As a result, we more than doubled our total enrollments in the past academic year.

FIROZ THAIRINIL Westford University College started as the Westford School of Management in 2009. We were originally in India and started our first office in the UAE in Ras Al Khaimah in 2010. We were focused on executive education until 2014 and handled a good portion of the market for the MBA course we started. The focus was on providing feasible learning options for working executives. Typically, universities here offer part-time courses, but this has the same modules and models as the full-time course, only without expecting working professionals to follow the same methods as full-time students. We were not looking at this as a business or money-making process but because we had the resources and facilities, we wanted somebody to use them. We want to be in executive education since this is our core competency, which is why we developed an online program that is entirely different to other online courses. Whatever we do, we ensure it is student-oriented so we can improve their lives. Our students have a global context since we ensure there is a correct mix of faculty from different countries taking different subjects. This provides a 360-degree perspective.

Why would a student choose Sharjah as a destination?

AU Sharjah is a cultural destination and was twice designated the cultural capital of the Arab world. Both those previous designations were a result of the recognition of the efforts of His Highness the ruler of Sharjah and the cultural background that we have. A large number of international students wish to study in Sharjah, especially students from Arab countries, Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Some of the countries from where Skyline has attracted students include Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Ghana, among others. When it comes to recent trends in the industry, the biggest change in the last 10 years has been adapting information communication technologies into learning methods, especially because the average student's attention span has become smaller, mainly because of the availability of a variety of electronic and internet media sources. Knowledge is no longer the preserve of the professor; it is available at the click of a button, everywhere. As such, we emphasize the development of soft skills in addition to emotional intelligence, communication skills, and interpersonal, analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

FT In Sharjah, the impact of teaching is growing. I have seen a great deal of improvement over the past 21 years, though there is scope for further improvement. The population is increasing in this region and has grown hundreds of times, an extent to which higher education has not. Worse, the cost currently offered in the region is not affordable for 80% of parents. This is another huge structural challenge. There is a large gap that must be filled by affordable education. That said, the ruler of Sharjah is interested in investing in education. We cannot depend entirely on the government. We want to give something back to society, so we provide the bachelor's degree, whether we can afford it or not. We can manage this because our costs are covered by our executive education.