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The exponential pace of change induced by the transition into the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) creates a grand challenge for schools and universities. Earlier, education reforms used to cater for the long-term needs of a slowly changing market. This is, however, no longer the case.

Significant technological developments in quantum computing have been achieved in 2019, with the successful design of Sycamore, a computer that is billion times more powerful than Summit by IBM, the fastest supercomputer in the world.

Last year, China announced the successful design of its own quantum computer, which is again billion times more powerful than Sycamore. This sets the pace of the race that we are witnessing today. The world is changing at a dizzying speed. The promise is huge, the risk as well.

The frontiers between disciplines such bioengineering, robotics and computing are becoming blurred. Robots and AI algorithms are already assisting and will replace humans in the near future to accomplish many tasks with much better efficiency and productivity. Hence, the workforce will have to develop greater agility to reinvent itself more often than ever before to meet the needs of an evolving market. The ability to adapt and learn is the key for success in this emerging world.

Transformation in education

Today, knowledge is available. The connectivity of the world has enhanced the opportunities for self learning and the pandemic has accelerated tremendously the development of online learning.

The University of Sharjah has developed over the years state-of-the-art IT infrastructure to promote technology-assisted education. This enabled us to offer our students the best learning environment possible in the Covid era. In addition to the global challenge of education in the 4IR era, the college of sciences worldwide have to address the issue of employability of their graduates. The mission of the colleges must be refocused and more attention needs to be paid for equipping students with the tools for learning in addition to providing them with cutting-edge knowledge.

At the College of Sciences at the University of Sharjah, we are working intensively to equip our students with the skills that will give them a competitive edge in the job market.

- Prof. Nouar Tabet, Dean of the College of Sciences, University of Sharjah

In March, the UAE launched an ambitious strategy that aims to double the contribution of the industry sector to its gross domestic product (GDP). The list of targeted sectors includes healthcare, space sciences, biotechnology, and clean and renewable energy. All these sectors offer great career opportunities for science graduates.

At the College of Sciences at the University of Sharjah, we are working intensively to equip our students with the skills that will give them a competitive edge in the job market. For instance, we are working on the introduction of AI-based education tools in teaching and research in biology, chemistry and physics.

In addition, a special programme has been developed by the college to enhance the computing and soft skills of our graduates. New undergraduate and master programmes have been established in areas of growing importance such as remote sensing and space sciences.

Remote sensing technologies are essential to monitor the environment and the impact of climate change, while well-qualified scientists will be critical to analyse the wealth of data generated by the ambitious space programmes of the UAE.

The University of Sharjah is committed to excellence in teaching and research. This strong commitment is clearly reflected in its ranking in the region and the world. The latest data from Scopus, a source-neutral citation database, show that based on its research output, the University of Sharjah is the fastest growing university in the region.

— The writer is Dean of the College of Sciences, University of Sharjah.