More and more international universities are moving to Dubai to set up campuses due to the reputation that the Emirate is building around its education sector.

Lance de Masi
American University in Dubai
Prof. Ammar Kaka
Vice-Principal, Executive Dean, & Head of Dubai Campus
Heriot Watt University

How do you recruit top faculty members?

LANCE DE MASI There are over 100 nationalities studying here, and Emiratis, at 15%, are the largest single group. Over half the university is Arabic-speaking; let's not forget the Lebanese, Egyptians, and Iranians, as well as an increasing number of people from Eastern Europe. There's a complexity in the sense that this diversity, which represents such a tremendous opportunity for our students, also poses a challenge. How do we go about recruiting? We post everything on our website, which is there for the whole world to see, and we place ads in leading education publications that are read internationally. How do we determine the suitability? Obviously, the more experience people have had previously with North American higher education, particularly if they have had this experience in the US, the more attractive candidates they become for us. On the other hand, the university is mindful of this issue, and goes to great lengths through its orientation programs and internal communications to “enlighten" professors that are excellent in terms of their knowledge and discipline. We are doing this outside of the US, which poses an additional challenge, but you have to realize that the US is a country of immigrants, and there are many individuals and faculty-members that are not native-born US citizens. Education is a much bigger concept than the nationality of the people who are delivering that education.

AMMAR KAKA Qualified staff are a very important factor for us; it is the most significant criterion for success in academia. We often advertise for a job, call people in for interviews, and end up not appointing anyone and instead advertise again. We do not hire just anyone. Sometimes, we have to wait a while for the best person to arrive. Dubai is an attractive place for people to live, but at the same time it is an expensive city; therefore, we have to reflect that in the financial package and benefits we give to employees. Academics like me are not in it for the money. To get the best staff, you need to create an environment in which people can develop their careers. People will join us if they can stay for an extended period of time and improve their CVs. That is very important in academia because otherwise you end up with people who have no aspiration to develop their careers any further. Basically, you need to allow them to do research and give them the time to develop.

There has been a push within Dubai to get more women into the workplace. How has that been reflected in enrollment numbers at AUD?

LDM We have a 50-50 balance. As more and more women seek higher education and in some professions, in numbers, even take a dominant position, we may see women move slightly ahead of men. But, right now, we're balanced and I think that whether or not that changes depends on the level of interest. Were we ever to offer degrees in disciplines that lead to professions that are decidedly female-skewed, it might change, but right now it's balanced and I think it will pretty much stay that way.

What are your plans to create research facilities?

AK I cannot claim that the research opportunities here are the same as back home in the UK simply because there are more and larger resources available for research funding in the UK. I personally taught in the UK for 20 years before coming to Dubai. I was at the main campus of Heriot Watt University, and we would approach research councils or industry competitively with proposals and seek funding to do our own research. Relatively speaking, industry representatives there engage much more with academia, to the extent that they would commission and fund research. I think that the government vision here to develop Dubai into a knowledge-based economy should certainly open more doors for academics to seek funding for the research they do. Both industry and academia have to work together to achieve this vision.