As students return to campus this week for the new semester, an increasing number of new academic programmes catering to student and industry demand, are on offer at universities. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Dubai: Private universities in Dubai and Sharjah have reported an overall increase in their undergraduate student enrolment numbers at the start of the new 2011-12 academic year.

The Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) Education cluster of Tecom Investments has reported an approximate increase of 15 per cent on total student numbers. This brings DIAC's student numbers up to 21,000, up from last year's 18,000. However, the final figures will only be finalised at the end of the enrolment process for the 2011-12 academic year.

The institution reporting the highest leap in its new undergraduate student intake is Heriot-Watt University's Dubai campus.

Professor Ammar Kaka, Vice-Principal and Dean of the university, reported an approximate increase of 40 per cent. This brings its student numbers up to nearly 2,500.

Next in line for universities with the highest enrolment numbers at the start of the new academic year are Manipal University Dubai and Middlesex University Dubai. Both institutions have experienced an approximate growth of 30 per cent for new students, bringing their student numbers to a total of 2,100 for Middlesex and 1,800 for Manipal.

Outgoing president of the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD), Professor Rob Whelan, reported an expected 17 per cent growth, taking UOWD’s total incoming student number to 1,300.

The American University of Sharjah (AUS) and the Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai (RIT) expect their new enrolment numbers to increase between 15 and 20 per cent. This would bring the student body of AUS to 5,500 and RIT's to 250.

New programmes

This year also sees an increasing number of new academic programmes catering to student and industry demand, on offer at universities.

The institution that tops the list with most new programmes introduced onto the market is newcomer to DIAC, Amity University.

Situated in DIAC's Block 10 across two floors, where Michigan State University Dubai (MSU) used to be, Amity offers students undergraduate degrees in the niche fields of nanotechnology, aerospace engineering, nuclear science and technology, solar and alternative energy and forensic science.

However, the programmes have not been accredited by the UAE's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR).

Founded by the Chauhan family of India and belonging to the Amity Education Group, the institution offers students an international experience with campuses already established in the UK, US, India, Singapore, Mauritius and Romania.

"We've also just identified 25 more countries where we want to set up campuses," said Atul Chauhan, chancellor of Amity University and president of the Amity Education group. "We are also offering 125 full scholarships for the next year, 25 of which are reserved for UAE nationals."

Other new academic programme on offer is an undergraduate programme of industrial engineering at AUS.

The institution is also considering the introduction of postgraduate degrees in architecture and fine arts, Ali Shuhaimy, vice-chancellor for enrolment management told Campus Notes.

Shuhaimy also reported a noticeable increasing interest in the university's biomedical programmes.

"We used to have a maximum of 10 students on these programmes and now we have nearly 50," he said. "We are currently tracking the reasons for the rising interest."

This year Heriot-Watt introduced a postgraduate degree in water resources and logistics and supply chain management and an undergraduate degree of management in psychology. In total the institution has introduced nine undergraduate and postgraduate courses into its curriculum, according to Professor Kaka.

Middlesex has introduced a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) with five specialisations, while Manipal has begun offering a Doctoral programme in biotechnology.

"We will not admit more than seven students onto this intensive flagship programme," said Dr B. Ramjee, director of Manipal. "The Doctoral programme we are offering will focus on research fields such as human genetics, stem cells, neurobiology and cancer molecular biology with an eventual move into nano-particle research."

MSU will also make a comeback this term at its new campus in Dubai Knowledge Village with an introduction of its first postgraduate programme in Public Health.

Dr Tesa Dunseath, Executive Director of MSU, also reported the introduction of a postgraduate degree in Human Resources and Labour Relations and a coming Master's (LLM) Law degree next autumn.

UOWD will also introduce two MOHESR accredited master's degrees in international studies and media and communications in January as well as a Bachelor of engineering.

The Canadian University of Dubai will also launch a MOHESR MBA in Islamic Banking at the Najah Education and Careers exhibition in Abu Dhabi in October.

New facilities

By way of expansion, Heriot-Watt, Manipal, AUS and RIT have the most movement in that department. All the above mentioned institutions, except AUS, have or are in the process of moving to new campuses.

Heriot-Watt aims to make a final move to phase one of its new Dh200 million campus in DIAC by December. The new campus has the capacity to house nearly 5,000 students.

Phase two of the property, estimated to be ready in time for the start of the next academic year, will include an auditorium and student housing.

Manipal students, staff and faculty will start the new academic year in phase one of a brand new campus made up of 750,000 square feet in DIAC.

The expansion of Manipal's Dubai campus will happen in three phases with phase two, student housing, estimated to be ready within 18 months.

Dr Mustafa Abushagur, president of RIT Dubai, reported the institution's recent move to a new campus in Silicon Oasis. Although RIT was previously located in the Silicon Oasis headquarters, it now occupies 35 per cent of an independent space. This increased its classroom capacity by 150 per cent. Dr Abushagur said all four of the university's undergraduate programmes are accredited by the MOHESR.

This term RIT will also introduce to its campus a technology incubator, which will essentially provide space, advice, technology and some funding to student technology start up companies. This technology incubator will be linked with the one at the RIT home campus in the US.

AUS also inaugurates its new Dh90 million School of Business and Management building with a capacity of 1,100 students at any one time. It increased AUS' faculty office and teaching space by 25 per cent.

Middlesex will host its first international academic conference on business and social science in November in a bid to increase its academic research activities.

Staying on the research theme, Chauhan said Amity University plans to invest Dh25 million in academic research at its Dubai campus over the next four years.

Autumn Semester in numbers:

15%: increase in student numbers for Dubai International Academic City

21,000: students currently enrolled at Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village

Dh200m: new campus was recently completed for Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Dh90m: new School of Business and Management recently opened at AUS