Dubai: The importance of establishing Australian-Emirati educational partnerships was highlighted during the University of Wollongong in Dubai’s 20 year anniversary dinner gala that was held on Wednesday in Dubai.

The gala’s guest of honour, Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, spoke about the importance of education in strengthening bonds between countries.

He also commended the role that the University of Wollongong in Dubai has in further bettering relationships between the countries.

“You have successfully communicated a sense of Australian culture and strengthened the bond between our two countries. Our higher education system has benefitted from your dynamic activities in the UAE as you have provided sound education in the academic disciplines that are vital to our country.”

Pablo Kang, Australia’s Ambassador to the UAE who also spoke during the ceremony shed light on the importance of having such relationships. He discussed the current situation of both countries and spoke about the opportunities available to further better it.

“Right now there are a 1,000 Emirati students studying in Australia which compromise of 16 per cent of Emiratis studying abroad. We are working on increasing these numbers, which dropped significantly in 2009, through marketing and dispelling myths.”

Among the myths, according to the ambassador is that ‘Australia is too far’. He responded to this by stating that there are currently direct flights to Australia every 72 minutes. Another advantage is the increasing number of high ranking universities in Australia.

Kang said that to better the educational relationships there should be more scholarships and programmes provided. “Our government has announced a plan to send Australian students to the best universities in Asia. We need more of this type of educational collaborations from this country.”

During the ceremony the president of the university, Professor Trevor Spedding recounted the history of UOWD, from its early days as The Institute for Australian Studies, with just eight students, to its current position, hosting over 4,000 students at the heart of Dubai Knowledge Village.

Staff and Alumni were also present at the gala dinner; Gulf News spoke to them to learn about some of the noticeable changes and developments that the university has gone through.

Professor Melodena Balakrishan who has been part of the Business and Management faculty since 2005 said that among the remarkable changes that the university has gone through is making its content more relevant to the UAE.

“In terms of education we made our curriculums more relevant to the UAE which helps the students understand the market and the requirements of the region better. It is remarkable when the students come back and say that their university projects helped them secure jobs.”

Alumni student Gladwin Menezas agreed that life projects have helped him in his job. “Now I bring real life projects for the students to work on as a way of paying my university back by benefiting the students in the same way that I was benefited.”