Leaders
. Image Credit: Gulf News

"Our programmes are inspired by innovation and entrepreneurship"

Prof. Karim Chelli, President and Vice Chancellor, Canadian University Dubai

Canadian University Dubai has expanded to a new campus. How does the avant-garde campus add value to student life, while creating new experiences?

Canadian University Dubai has expanded to City Walk, an urban playground in the heart of downtown Dubai. Our new futuristic campus adds to student life by inspiring entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation, as well as hosting state-of-the-art amenities tailored to a new advanced teaching model. Its ideal location, vibrant community, and contemporary architecture make it the best place for students to learn, innovate, and explore.

Our programmes and courses at Canadian University Dubai are inspired by innovation and entrepreneurship.

- Prof. Karim Chelli

What new programs and courses are you planning to add to the new academic term to empower students to be future-ready?

Our programmes and courses at Canadian University Dubai are inspired by innovation and entrepreneurship. This, along with our Canadian perspectives in learning, research, and application, make up a significant portion of our foundation. We’ve recently added the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity, Software Design, and Computer Science to empower students to be future-ready.

Taught by leading experts in these fields, students are able to get involved in research under the supervision of our faculty, and upon graduation are exposed to a wide range of professional opportunities. Accredited by the UAE Ministry of Education: Higher Education Affairs, graduates of CUD are also equipped with the skills and experiences required to excel in the modern business world and achieve success in the UAE’s knowledge economy.

“Pure traditional delivery of education will be a thing of the past”

Ahmed Al Shammaa, Professor and Dean College of Engineering, University of Sharjah

How do you read the future of the education system for universities in the UAE?

The models of higher education delivery will be changing rapidly to meet needs of the current and future students. Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for such a change. Pure traditional delivery of education will be a thing of the past.

Universities will also have to evolve from being a traditional provider to being a talent hub generator through a hybrid delivery mode with more focus on the application of knowledge and impactful research.

- Ahmed Al Shammaa

Universities will also have to evolve from being a traditional provider to being a talent hub generator through a hybrid delivery mode with more focus on the application of knowledge and impactful research. The UAE educational system is heading towards this direction and beyond following the current inspirational and ambitious drive by the leaders to transform the country into a hub of innovative and entrepreneurial education, with opportunities for cutting-edge research and development.

How critical a role does technology play in allowing students at your university as well as the institution itself to be future-secure?

Today’s students from the net generation, who have grown up in an immersive computing environment, come to class with smartphones, laptops and iPods. This era of technology will have a major impact on our teaching delivery. New technologies are also shaping other areas within the university campus where social networking tools are helping to build connections with current students and alumni, and support career service activities. E-marketing campaigns expand the reach and success of students recruitment to ensure future of our institution is secured and it continues to be the engine of talent generation supporting the wider strategic vision of the country’s sustainable development agenda.

“We will continue to leverage technology to innovate and expand our curriculum”

Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Middlesex University and Director of Middlesex University Dubai

We are one year into the Covid-19 crisis. How is your institution looking at ways to create more engaged and effective learning experiences?

I am proud of how quickly our faculty translated the Middlesex University Dubai experience online for nearly 4,000 students last April. From September 2020, we have been offering blended learning as well as a 100 per cent online delivery model, enabling students to choose which model suits their situation best. All student learning support services and lab sessions, if they are software-based, can be accessed online.

Students should consider whether the university offers a full breadth of services outside the classroom and works to ensure an interactive learning environment.

- Dr Cedwyn Fernandes

I continue to hear success stories. Just one example is from our talented Graphic Design students, who recently designed a selection of magazine covers from home using the creative self-portraiture feature of smartphones. We will continue to use the tools around us and leverage technology to innovate and expand our curriculum, even when students return to campus.

What factors should students consider before deciding on a programme?

Students should consider whether the university offers a full breadth of services outside the classroom and works to ensure an interactive learning environment. For example: will they have access to a dedicated careers service and well-connected faculty who can help find work experience? Also consider what action is being taken to ensure health and safety during the pandemic and provide pastoral care.

Students should also consider the track record and length of time a university has been delivering their programmes in Dubai. Middlesex University Dubai is completing its 16th year in Dubai and is very proud of its 5-Star rating by KHDA/QS in its higher education classification.

“Technological innovation is the most important element in a futuristic classroom”

Dr. K. Kumar, Associate Dean, Academic — Undergraduate Studies (AUGSD), BITS Pilani Dubai Campus, and Professor, Department of Mathematics

It’s not going to be business as usual at UAE universities next academic year. How is BITS Pilani Dubai looking at ways to create new opportunities for effective student learning and experiences?

BITS Pilani has already garnered a lot of experience in conducting online classes. When the pandemic started last year, we immediately began offering online lessons with the use of advanced technology. This year, we are offering classes using the mixed learning mode (hybrid mode).

BITS Pilani also has frequent content evaluation, keeping the curriculum up-to-date. These changes are done involving the academia and industry experts from the respective fields.

- Dr. K. Kumar

We have now started using a modern technology in delivering lectures through polycom devices — it has an advanced camera system, which senses the motion of the teacher, and moves alongside them, all the while having a highly developed spotlight feature, which highlights the student who is speaking, so that the student and teacher can have a one-on-one discussion at any point of the lecture in a lively manner.

Another great advantage that we have is our remote lab facility, allowing students to conduct experiments online with a dedicated team helping them. Finally, BITS Pilani also has frequent content evaluation, keeping the curriculum up-to-date. These changes are done involving the academia and industry experts from the respective fields.

As the head of one of the premier higher education institutions in the UAE, what in your view will the future classroom look like?

Technological innovation is the most important element in a futuristic classroom. During mixed (hybrid) learning mode, a teacher cannot remain at the chalk and talk level of discussion, thus, they have to accommodate all the recent changes in technology in an efficient and effective manner. There also needs to be a strong evaluation and grading system. Since the student is attempting the test outside of the campus, how we conduct our examinations is of paramount importance.

“Covid 19 has forced many universities to fundamentally rethink the university experience”

Dr Jason Fitzsimmons, Academic President, Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE), Dubai Campus

In the new educational landscape, technological resources play as important a role as the quality of faculty and education. How is Covid-19 reshaping the UAE higher education sector?

Covid 19 has forced many universities to fundamentally rethink the university experience. It has accelerated the acceptance of online learning and technology-enabled learning environments. With greater use of technology in the classroom, students are now able to access leaning materials wherever and whenever they want. The current technological resources such as learning management systems, video conferencing and simulations have enhanced the experience for students as well as provided opportunities for more personalised learning experiences that better meet the needs of the learner.

What current learning trends are gaining traction in the UAE?

Universities have taken many of these technological integrations beyond academics and have offered enhanced co-curricular experiences such as virtual career fairs, online placements and remote internship.

The current technological resources such as learning management systems, video conferencing and simulations have enhanced the experience for students as well as provided opportunities for more personalised learning experiences.

- Dr Jason Fitzsimmons

From our own experiences, while students have indicated that they enjoy the flexibility associated with the online learning environment, they still desire some form of classroom experience that satisfies the social aspect of the university. This suggests that there may be an irreversible trend towards increased use of blended learning environments in university education both in the UAE and elsewhere.

“Westford’s main aim is to enable students to be corporate ready”

Hanil Haridas, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Westford University College

What are the changes in regular training programmes for your staff considering the pandemic and similar challenges in mind?

Westford has been a pioneer in delivering online classes for over a decade, and we bring this practice and experience to enhance the learning and development of our employees.

- Hanil Haridas

The pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption in the way how we work and learn today. But it also has been a catalyst in innovation and upgradation. Westford has been a pioneer in delivering online classes for over a decade, and we bring this practice and experience to enhance the learning and development of our employees. As a part of the Employee Education Programme, Westford employees can upgrade their higher education in master’s and doctorate programme via online delivery with upto 60 per cent discount.

The rise of virtual tools in the dissemination of education has seen the student internship structure changing slowly across universities globally with internship options traditionally considered hands-on slowly giving way to virtual models. Are internship models being revisited in your university?

Absolutely. As the nation prepared to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed it, we gathered that the students had a lot to lose. Their regular campus life was disrupted; hence, it was important to keep them engaged with internships and projects to enhance their learning and exposure. Westford’s main aim is to enable students to be corporate ready.

Hence equipping them with the right techniques and trainings has been our primary focus. We had over seven internal and external placement drives and many of the students were placed. We had one of the highest number of placement drives in the region through the pandemic. WeConnect with Business Leaders and Student Placement Cell were able to virtually connect our students to the corporate world.

“At the heart of our responsive blended learning lies the well-being of staff and students”

Prof. Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice Principal, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Which courses will give students the best chance of success in a post-Covid world? Are you introducing any new courses this academic term?

Programmes in Computer Science, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence are very relevant to developing skills necessary for jobs of the future. The current pace of technology adoption is expected to continue, transforming tasks, jobs and skills by 2025.

Similarly, our Real Estate programme will be useful for students, especially in the backdrop of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan aimed at sustainable urban development in Dubai over the next 20 years.

Additionally, we are commencing the MSc Global Sustainability Engineering programme from September 2021 to help those in the sustainability sector bridge the gap between raw innovation and marketable products.

- Prof. Ammar Kaka

Our multi-disciplinary programme BEng (Hons) Robotics, Autonomous and Interactive Systems is a great example of a future-focused degree.

Additionally, we are commencing the MSc Global Sustainability Engineering programme from September 2021 to help those in the sustainability sector bridge the gap between raw innovation and marketable products.

We have also introduced new courses such as BA (Hons) Fashion Branding and Promotion and BA (Hons) Communication Design beginning this September intake, based on industry demands and global trends.

The new model of education for universities is not about replicating face-to-face sessions online. What tools and strategies have you employed in designing courses for enriched educational experience?

We have employed the use of Responsive Blended Learning (RBL) which combines active, supported online learning with contextually appropriate face-to-face learning opportunities. This approach enables students to proceed with their studies alongside their peers. At the heart of RBL lies the well-being of staff and students, whilst ensuring the same educational outcomes as before. Keeping the future student experience in mind, we have successfully moved to our digitally enabled campus at Dubai Knowledge Park this month, which offers an invigorating study environment.

“We are seeing an increased demand in all applied technology fields”

Prof. Thomas Hochstettler, Provost, Abu Dhabi University

What courses are in demand and how is your institution responding to current learning trends in higher education?

We, at Abu Dhabi University, are seeing an increased demand in all applied technology fields, from cybersecurity and fintech to IoT application development, innovation management and business analytics. In response to the demand, we have in recent years developed new degree programmes at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in close collaboration with major employers in the public and private sectors.

We have also increased the resources and facilities that are available to student entrepreneurs, who have no lack of bright ideas about how to use technology to create products, bring them to market, and put them to good use in improving the quality of life.

- Prof. Thomas Hochstettler

We have also increased the resources and facilities that are available to student entrepreneurs, who have no lack of bright ideas about how to use technology to create products, bring them to market, and put them to good use in improving the quality of life.

How has Covid-19 affected the admission process and how do you plan to conduct admissions this year?

During the pandemic, we have developed ways to reach out and ensure that qualified potential students have every opportunity to gain admission to our university. Ironically, we have learned that a personal approach works best, even in this day of omnipresent social media. Our assessment of students remains as before, but we try to ensure that every potential student has a real-life contact at ADU. Personal consultation, now as always, leads them to make good decisions about their course of study.

Finally, what factors should students consider before deciding on a programme?

Students need to first find out where their talents and passions lie. It goes without saying that technology will be a foundational part of their education. Beyond that, however, students do best in school and in life when they are engaged in some endeavor that brings them joy.

“The pandemic will accelerate the trend of moving to robotics, AI and outsourcing”

Daniel Adkins, CEO, Curtin Dubai’s Education Management Services Provider

Which courses will give students the best chance of success in a post-Covid world?

All of the degrees offered at Curtin Dubai are among those that will be in most demand in the post-Covid world. As the demand for core business skills, engineering, and computer science are rapidly growing, disciplines that will be needed to rebuild the post-pandemic economy will draw students.

Curtin Dubai is introducing a Post-graduate Certificate in Digital Media this fall, allowing students with a media or marketing background to upskill for the digital future.

- Daniel Adkins

Curtin Dubai is introducing a Post-graduate Certificate in Digital Media this fall, allowing students with a media or marketing background to upskill for the digital future.

How much is technology going to be a part of tomorrow’s jobs and in what way?

Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, the experts say that the world is facing at least 10 years of economic recovery to get back to the pre-pandemic levels. The pandemic will accelerate the trend of moving to robotics and AI, as well as outsourcing in businesses to lower costs. Nearly every job will require literacy in digital technologies and the jobs in the STEM fields that will be the most in demand. Jobs in mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, computer science, and cybersecurity will be in demand — all of which are offered at Curtin Dubai. In order for the economy to recover, digital marketing and entrepreneurship programmes, like Curtin Dubai’s newly-introduced BBA, will also be in high demand.

“Our programmes challenge and prepare our MBAs to meet the demands of their future careers”

Randa Bessiso, Director – Middle East, The University of Manchester

What are the advantages of pursuing an MBA at the University of Manchester?

Together with Kelley School of Business, The University of Manchester is continuing to build on our history of delivering world-class research-led business education through innovative programmes that really challenge and prepare our MBAs to meet the demands of their future careers, whatever their ambitions.

- Randa Bessiso

Alliance Manchester Business School’s exciting international partnership with the prestigious Kelley School of Business strengthens even further our already global offer, and provides experienced working professionals in the Middle East with a high quality, innovative part-time MBA option with some unique dimensions. Together with Kelley School of Business, The University of Manchester is continuing to build on our history of delivering world-class research-led business education through innovative programmes that really challenge and prepare our MBAs to meet the demands of their future careers, whatever their ambitions.

The programme combines the best in flexible, interactive online learning with the opportunity to come on site twice a year to work together and build valuable connections. It’s an exciting opportunity not to be missed.

“Students have to be engaged in entrepreneurship and creativity”

Dr Yousef Al Assaf, President, RIT Dubai

With travel restrictions still in place, UAE universities expect to see a larger volume of applicants this year. What, according to you, are the key advantages of pursuing higher education in the UAE?

UAE is a very dynamic, innovative and futuristic country with a strong infrastructure. To adapt to the changes and the pace of the future trends, education cannot be classical. Students have to be engaged in entrepreneurship and creativity.

RIT has adopted a very good approach during the Covid situation. However, we have learnt from that experience that online education by itself is very limiting and students have to experience the physical interaction and campus life.

- Dr Yousef Al Assaf

They must create and test solutions for industry players and above all, help in solving challenges of the city and country they live in. These are the aspects that the UAE reinforces and pushes for. Also, in the UAE, there are a lot of job opportunities. Instead of studying abroad and coming back to the UAE to find a job, both can be integrated where the student can study and work in the UAE.

As universities across the world adopt a new model for delivery of education during Covid-19, how will you ensure there is no dip in the quality of learning?

RIT has adopted a very good approach during the Covid situation. However, we have learnt from that experience that online education by itself is very limiting and students have to experience the physical interaction and campus life. Online education will continue, but it will be part of the whole delivery system and will be utilised in areas where online has proven to be better in delivering the content. If we see that online education will add to the experience, we will endorse it for sure.

“Professionals who are able to extract value out of data will be in demand”

Dr. Karim Seghir, Chancellor, Ajman University

Jobs in the UAE are likely to reflect international trends such as 4IR and the impact of Covid-19. Accordingly, what sectors are likely to see the most traction?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has already made its impact felt in the way we produce, market and consume products and services, with digital transformation emerging as a mega trend that encompasses big data, IoT, AI and other advanced technologies.

Ajman University is deeply aware of these trends and requirements; we launched our master’s and bachelor’s degree in Business Analytics last year to cater to digital transformation trends.

- Dr. Karim Seghir

Consequently in the long-term, jobs such as data scientists, AI and IOT specialists will be in vogue. But not just that, in every field or vocation, professionals who understand and are able to extract value out of data will be increasingly in demand. Covid-19 has brought home the importance of having greater numbers of healthcare and medical professionals, along with researchers.

Ajman University is deeply aware of these trends and requirements; we launched our master’s and bachelor’s degree in Business Analytics last year to cater to digital transformation trends. AU’s Medical and Pharmacy colleges are already well established and are churning out graduates with advanced healthcare knowledge, skills and research abilities.

What current learning trends are gaining traction in the UAE?

The most obvious trend is a shift to online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Students right from their primary years are being expected to become digitally literate to adjust to the digital way of learning. Technology tools that enable digital learning are also gaining traction. However, in the slightly longer-term, we expect hybrid learning to be the future.

“Our ultimate goal is to position GMU among the leading research universities in the region”

Prof. Hossam Hamdy, Chancellor, Gulf Medical University

What makes Gulf Medical University unique in healthcare education?

Gulf Medical University (GMU) combines the best of quality curriculum, cutting-edge facilities, futuristic training and global exposure to sustain and improve an academic culture of excellence. The university boasts a robust, outcome competency-based curriculum aligned to international competency framework, with early exposure to clinical training and experience with patients from diverse ethnic/cultural backgrounds.

GMU’s prestigious accreditations and international collaborations with leading universities in the US, Europe and Far East give wide recognition to its programmes.

- Prof. Hossam Hamdy

Students gain the competitive edge from their experience of working with cutting-edge research infrastructure and facilities at GMU.

Furthermore, GMU’s prestigious accreditations and international collaborations with leading universities in the US, Europe and Far East give wide recognition to its programmes.

Could you tell us a bit on GMU’s research capabilities?

GMU’s Thumbay Research Institute of Precision Medicine (TRIPM) carries out our multidisciplinary comprehensive and translational research focused on cancer immunology and immunotherapy. TRIPM concentrates its efforts on the development of state-of-the-art research technology platforms — liquid biopsy, NGS, functional genomics, imaging, and gene editing, which are fundamental to position the centre on the international stage and as a regional leader in personalised cancer immunotherapy. Our ultimate goal is to position GMU among the leading research universities and as a national model for medical education in the region by integrating innovation through research.