Dubai: The University of Wollongong in Dubai's (UOWD) new president, Professor Gassan Aouad, has been at the helm for less than a month, but he is already quite clear about his vision for the institution.
Intensifying research activities, expanding its doctoral programmes, diversifying its offerings, possibly expanding the campus outside Dubai are just some of the goals he has outlined for UOWD.
Commenting on reasons for moving to the UAE, Aouad said, "This is a vibrant place and a fantastic institution.
"The association with an Australian higher education system is an advantage and at the same time the university is accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which is a fantastic achievement."
Prior to his appointment, Aouad was the pro vice-chancellor of research and innovation and the dean of the College of Science and Technology at Salford University in the United Kingdom.
He was born in Lebanon and was educated in the UK where he completed a degree in civil engineering, a masters in construction and then a PhD in construction management and IT.
The last 20 years of his career have been devoted to teaching and conducting research in the areas of information modelling and visualisation, simulation and process mapping within the construction industry at Salford University .
"It's interesting that I come from Lebanon, have a British passport and work for an Australian university. It's an indication that the university is truly multicultural. Universities are not just about learning — it's about interactions, accepting each other and becoming tolerant about life," said Aouad.
Among his many achievements, he is particularly enthusiastic about working with research students. He successfully supervised 22 PhD students at Salford University and externally examined 52 PhD students. In addition, he was appointed vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) in March last year. Aouad is keen to get active in the community and will encourage students to do so.
"We want to be part of the knowledge economy of the UAE and I can see this part of the world becoming an educational hub and I think the leaders have the vision to achieve it." As UOWD ushers in its 20th year next year, Aouad said big celebrations are in store. Aouad alluded to a possible expansion beyond Dubai. "We may exist beyond Dubai, but that is still in the early stages — there may be opportunities to have some presence some place else," he said.
The new president outlined some of the challenges in higher education but emphasised that the sector was facing huge challenges globally. "We like to look at the challenges as opportunities, which is to build research capacity, build short courses in areas that are really needed for a knowledge economy."