Heriot-Watt University
Heriot-Watt University has received a 5-star rating from KHDA for three years in a row Image Credit: Supplied

As the first British university to set up a campus in Dubai in 2005, Heriot-Watt University has established itself as a pioneer in higher education in the UAE. In 2021, the University opened its doors to its new campus at Dubai Knowledge Park and is currently educating 4,000 students from all over the world.

Heriot-Watt University Dubai is planning on continuing its journey of growth in the region as Professor Heather J. McGregor joins as the new Provost and Vice Principal. Previously, Professor McGregor was the Executive Dean of the Edinburgh Business School at Heriot-Watt University’s campus in Edinburgh. She has had a long career in industry, originally as an investment banker and later as an entrepreneur, before becoming a full-time academic. Professor McGregor’s PhD is in structured finance and she is a qualified Chartered Management Accountant (CGMA).

So what does her arrival mean for Heriot-Watt’s plans in the UAE? Professor McGregor wants to ensure that the University provides opportunities for learners at all stages of life, from those who have just left school to those who have many years of professional work experience.

Heriot Watt
Professor Heather J. McGregor, Provost and Vice Principal Image Credit: Supplied

"Lifelong learning, where people come in and out of education as their career ambitions evolve, will be the basis of education in the future," she said. "Here in the UAE, we have a unique learner community where many of our students are working, and our postgraduate students are, in many cases, already in established careers. We seek to continue to offer degrees that are relevant and skills that are desired by employers – current examples are our MSc Robotics, MSc Applied Accounting, and MSc Digital Leadership.”

Other popular courses at Heriot-Watt include International Business, Data Sciences, Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, Real Estate Investment and Finance, Architecture and Design, Robotics, and Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Heriot-Watt University is a world leader in several scientific areas, including energy transition and robotics research, and Professor McGregor is planning to grow that research capability on the Dubai campus.

"Our Edinburgh campus is the location of the UK’s new National Robotarium and the centre of the UK’s major industrial decarbonisation research programme. We already undertake energy transition research at our Dubai campus and have established the Centre for Sustainable Construction, but I hope to grow our research even further here in the UAE through collaboration with local companies and universities”.

She is proud that the Heriot-Watt campus building has recently achieved the LEED Gold status, and is already looking forward to COP 28. “We hope to be actively involved in the sustainability dialogue that will be coming to the UAE in 2023. All our staff have undertaken sustainability training, and we will be launching our carbon literacy micro-credential for all our students in the next 12 months.”

Heriot-Watt’s new Provost has an international family – while she is British, her husband is Australian, and her three adult sons reside in the UK, Australia, and the USA. So she was unsurprised to find that her 300 staff come from 51 different natonalities, and the 4,000 students comprise 116 nationalities. 40 per cent of the students have come to Dubai specifically to study with the university - the current top five nationalities for student recruitment are India, Pakistan, Russia, Egypt, and Kazakhstan.

Heriot-Watt’s commitment to equivalent learning on all its campuses means that the University is able to offer a Go Global programme, allowing students the flexibility to study on different campuses as they choose. Many opt for transfers to the UK campus, where popular programmes are undergraduate (UG) courses, such as bachelor's in Business Administration (BBA), International Business Management (IBM), and Computer Science and Engineering.

Professor McGregor says, “We are also currently seeing inbound transfers from the UK campus to Dubai, as the city continues to be one of the most popular study destinations due to the many government-led initiatives, such as long-term residence visas for international students. It is also an incredibly safe place to live and study, which gives parents a lot of reassurance“

Heriot-Watt University has also received a 5-star rating from KHDA for three years in a row owing to the standard of curriculum, facilities, and holistic educational experience it offers students. Professor McGregor concludes, “Heriot-Watt has always been committed to providing quality education at all its campuses while also focusing on the well-being of students. I plan to continue to enhance the student experience and to provide our unique learning community with appropriate opportunities for upskilling.”