Dubai: A COVID-19 vaccine rollout encouraging more students back to campus, progress on key projects and the introduction of golden visas has created a favourable atmosphere for the UAE’s academic community, despite ongoing global challenges.
Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park are collectively home to more than 27,000 students and believe that the emirate’s education sector has more than a few reasons to be optimistic about the future.
After breaking ground in 2019, construction on The University of Birmingham’s state-of-the-art campus in Dubai International Academic City is on in full swing. Ranked among the world’s top-100 universities, the elite British institution will accommodate up to 2,900 students upon completion.
Meanwhile, the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) opened its 200,000sqft ‘Campus of the Future’ in Dubai Knowledge Park in August last year. It features a modern architectural design that combines contemporary and innovation-focused learning spaces with cutting-edge technologies. As the first international university in the UAE, UOWD also generated the highest admissions intake in seven years in 2020, following a series of successful marketing campaigns.
Heriot-Watt University Dubai has also been readying for a move into a new state-of-the-art 218,000sqft campus in Dubai Knowledge Park in 2021. The digitally-enabled campus is conceived to adhere to the latest directives from the government, guaranteeing students’ safety. Providing blended learning to remote access to resources, it allows for the changing landscape of education post COVID-19.
Australia’s Murdoch University inaugurated a 27,000sqft campus in May 2020 at Dubai Knowledge Park, which is twice the size of its former premises at Dubai International Academic City. It features world-class facilities, including a dedicated cybersecurity lab and education-focused furniture and interiors to promote a collaborative teaching and learning environment.
All of the institutes are focused on future-proofing the next generation of graduates, a task that has become more pertinent, following the global academic upheaval caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Mohammad Abdullah, managing director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park, said: “Education is facing its biggest upheaval in decades, but our communities are uniquely positioned to adapt. As the world’s largest academic ecosystem, it’s our role to create the right environment with state-of-the-art infrastructure, space to scale, and business-friendly regulations to attract the best universities to Dubai to capitalise on the confidence of youth. The optimism of youth is reason enough to be cautiously optimistic about the future.”
Ben Bailey, campus director, University of Birmingham Dubai, said: “We will be opening our new state-of-the-art campus in September and as vaccines begin to help manage the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in the UAE and around the world, Dubai and the UAE are well positioned to support the continued growth and development of the higher education sector in the emirates.”
Professor Mohamed Salem, president of the University of Wollongong Dubai, noted: “As the world shifts towards blended learning and the digitisation of the conventional education model, the launch of our new campus is particularly timely — incorporating traditional and modern teaching elements.”
Commenting on the 2021 outlook, professor Ammar Kaka, the provost and vice principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai said: “2020 has seen the pandemic impacting several industries. However, with the rollout of the vaccine, we are confident that we will see the start of economic recovery in 2021. We will be readying for the move into our new building in a few short months from now.”
Dr James Trotter, dean and academic president at Murdoch University Dubai, added: “With the hope of a successful rollout of effective vaccines in 2021, we at Murdoch Dubai look forward to the full activation of our amazing new campus in Dubai Knowledge Park and an eventual return to face-to-face teaching and events.”
In October 2020, Dubai International Academic City, KPMG and The Talent Enterprise launched the key findings of a collaborative research effort called What About Youth? The study found that 72 per cent of students are confident in their soft and hard skills to compete for work anywhere in the world. It represents the views of more than 153,000 young people across the region, revealing that nearly eight in ten young people are excited about what the future holds, with 88 per cent believing the best is yet to come.
Dubai International Academic City is the world’s largest academic ecosystem and is home to 27 universities from nine countries. Dubai Knowledge Park, a community focused on education, vocational training and human resources, is also home to an impressive roster of world-renowned institutions.