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Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi has implemented a renewed strategic plan. The strategy reflects the impulse given by the new President of Sorbonne University in Paris, Prof. Jean Chambaz. Resolutely global, the new plan reflects the heart of Sorbonne University in Paris as a multidisciplinary research university implementing, with its partners, creative and innovative teaching, research, innovation, mediation and technology transfer missions for the benefit of the common good. We are now extending this strategy in Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi as we aim to create a research hub, which is to be considered a main resource of data and knowledge in the region.

During our interview with Prof. Silvia Serrano, Vice Chancellor of Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, who is also a political scientist and a specialist in Soviet and post-Soviet studies, we discussed the below:

What distinguishes the education system that Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi offers?

The educational system that Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi offers is research-based education, which empowers critical thinking and equips students with deep knowledge in humanities, science, and social sciences. The faculty consist of renowned scholars coming from Paris to share their knowledge. The educational system in Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi offers the right tools for students to construct their own future, taking the cultural context in consideration, to become specialists in their professional fields and responsible citizens of the world.

What is the importance of having humanities taught as the background of most subjects offered by the university?

We live in a rapidly changing world. Many think that technology and innovation are the only ways to unlock the modern world challenges, ignoring the fact that rapid change always results in series of significant changes, which result in social and governing complexities. These complexities need policy-makers and social scientists who can understand the social coherence change and craft well-designed policies to govern and direct the society using their knowledge in humanities.

Our students begin their adult lives in an extraordinarily changing and complex world. This world requires skilled professionals, even highly skilled in technology, engineering and business, etc. But it also requires young people capable of adapting to new situations - of improvising, of imagining new answers to challenges that seemed unimaginable the day before. The coronavirus pandemic is a perfect illustration of this. An openness to the humanities makes it possible to place these developments in the history of humanity, to provide students with intellectual tools that enable them to take a critical distance and to establish a hierarchy of what is important and what is less important.

How does humanities play a crucial role in AI?

AI brings about significant progress in crucial areas such as health. But it also comes with a lot of uncertainties and risks: will human labour be replaced by machines? Does AI reinforce inequalities? Will all aspects of our lives be exposed and public? Will machines rule the world? Does their computing capacity make machines really “intelligent”? To meet the challenges of AI, it will be necessary to mobilise the expertise of researchers in the field of humanities, who are the specialists in these questions: sociologists and economists have been reflecting for decades on the transformations of the labour market and inequalities. Anthropologists and historians have considered the difference between the private and public spheres and philosophers have studied the ethical stakes of technological changes and the definition of the human intellect.

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