Zayed University (ZU) plans to provide accommodation for 6,000 students, in addition to faculty and support staff, at their new campus due to be ready by September 2011, said Dr Sulaiman Al Jasem, Vice-President, in an exclusive interview with Notes. The campus, currently under construction in Khalifa City, Abu Dhabi, covers 80 hectares and comprises academic buildings, recreation facilities and residential accommodation.

The facility will also accommodate the new Zayed International College, which will provide the same level of high-quality education to students of all nationalities. "Students were temporarily placed in a campus located in Swehan because there was no space in our current campus. The ZU Dubai campus is larger and can accommodate more students," said Al Jasem, who mentioned that among the 6,000 students due to be enrolled by 2011, 4,500 are female and 1,500 male.

Excerpts from the interview:

Some of ZU's male students are being accommodated in a temporary location in Swehan; will you be relocating them soon?

By January 2009 we will transfer 354 male students in Swehan to a campus next to the current Abu Dhabi one.

Does ZU plan to open its doors to expatriate students?

Yes, ZU will be the first UAE public university to enrol expatriates. We will start with a small number and increase gradually. We expect to accommodate expatriates by September 2009.

Are all your students of Emirati origin?

One or two of our students at the Dubai campus are from the USA and of course soon that number will increase.

Will you be offering expatriate students special courses?

We will open an Arab and Islamic Centre as a new initiative to encourage foreign students to learn more about our culture and language.

What is ZU's vision and mission?

ZU seeks to prepare students for a meaningful and successful 21st century personal and professional life; to graduate students who will help shape the future of the UAE; to support economic and social advancement; to lead innovation in higher education through teaching, learning, research and outreach and to do so in a culturally diverse, humane, technologically advanced and global environment.

What is your strategic plan?

To identify and build on ZU's strengths, continue working hard to improve the undergraduate programme; establish a role in serving the country's needs for graduate education; develop a research programme that supports the social, economic, technological and strategic needs of the country; forge innovative and mutually-productive relationships with business, industry and civic organisations and manage resources efficiently.

How different is ZU from other higher education institutes?

We expect our graduates to be fully bilingual in English and Arabic, proficient in the use of computing technology, and strong in research skills. Our graduates should achieve significant intellectual and social development and be well prepared for leadership positions in various sectors. From statistics we can proudly say that 83 per cent of ZU graduates are employed.

What qualifications must school students have to be accepted to ZU?

Students should not be less than 17 years old, should have a valid UAE passport, should have completed high school, and should fill out the unified admission form of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

Do your students mostly come from public or private schools?

Mostly public schools, some also come from private schools.

Do you plan to attract students from other GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) areas?

ZU plans to become a regional leader in higher education.

Do you have a year abroad system in ZU?

We will be opening our doors to exchange students for one year. We will offer a year abroad in our own campus. Our ZU students also travel to many countries for a few months to finish off a course or attend a workshop.

What have ZU's accomplishments been since you took over as Vice-President?

In June 2008, ZU received international accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Acquiring this accreditation was not easy as it had strict regulations; especially since ZU is not registered in the USA. It required achieving high-quality standards in all aspects of ZU's work.

On September 18 this year the Dubai Government signed an agreement with ZU to collaborate in providing career development opportunities for students in the field of information technology to help consolidate the UAE's position as the top performer among Middle East countries in the information and communication technology readiness index.

ZU signed a three-year deal with Etihad Airways on September 24 to develop the talent of UAE nationals looking for employment in the travel industry. The airline pledged to offer internships, sponsorship opportunities and summer work for graduates and undergraduates of ZU.