Universities lesaders
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“Our curriculum emphasises experiential learning and practical application”

Dr Tod A. Laursen, Professor and Chancellor, American University of Sharjah (AUS)

Dr Tod A. Laursen

As the UAE’s foremost higher education institution, how do you perceive the current gap between higher education and workplace skills and what strategies have you implemented to better prepare students for the demands of the modern workforce?

At American University of Sharjah (AUS), we acknowledge the evolving demands of the modern workforce and the imperative for higher education to bridge the gap between academic learning and practical skills. To address this, we have implemented a multifaceted approach. Our curriculum emphasises experiential learning and practical application, ensuring students gain hands-on experience in their chosen fields. We also foster partnerships with industry leaders to offer internships and real-world projects, providing students with invaluable industry exposure and skill development opportunities. Additionally, we have dedicated offices that offer comprehensive career counselling, workshops and networking events to equip students with the necessary tools and resources to succeed in the workforce. We are constantly updating our academic programmes to remain at the forefront and meet future demands.

How do you see the role of research and experiential learning in enhancing the adaptability of graduates to workplace trends?

Research and experiential learning are integral components of our educational philosophy. We believe that engaging in research cultivates skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability – essential skills for navigating dynamic workplace trends. Through our robust undergraduate research programmes, faculty-led research initiatives, and partnerships with industry and research institutions, our students explore cutting-edge technologies, contribute to innovative projects and develop a deep understanding of emerging trends in their respective fields. We empower graduates to adapt to evolving workplace dynamics and become catalysts for positive change.

“We develop and update curriculum to meet the needs of the industry and employers”

Vanessa Northway, Deputy Vice-Principal for Learning and Teaching at Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Vanessa Northway

As the Deputy Provost of Heriot-Watt University Dubai, how do you see the role of research and experiential learning in enhancing the adaptability of graduates to workplace trends?

Research and experiential learning are integral to cultivating graduates’ adaptability to workplace trends. Engaging in contemporary research equips students with critical thinking skills and exposes them to evolving industries. Through internships and practical applications, experiential learning bridges the gap between theory and practice, fostering real-world adaptability. This approach enhances their problem-solving abilities and instils a proactive mindset, enabling our graduates to navigate and contribute effectively to dynamic workplace landscapes.

Could you share examples of courses introduced specifically to bridge the gap between academic learning and practical workplace skills?

Heriot-Watt University develops and updates curriculum to meet the industry and employers’ needs. Some of the most popular programmes, such as Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, are in line with the UAE National Agenda. Another programme on Network Security is tailored to provide our graduates with the fundamental knowledge and practical skills required for a cybersecurity-related professional position in an organisation. Our programmes are supported by industry in a variety of ways. These courses collectively foster a well-rounded skill set, ensuring our graduates are academically proficient and equipped with the practical skills essential for success in the workplace. We regularly review and update programmes, integrating the latest technologies and industry-standard tools. This holistic approach ensures that graduates possess academic knowledge and the practical skills and mindset required by the dynamic job market.

“Westford offers resources and platforms to enhance employability of students”

Hanil Das, Co Founder and CEO, Westford University College

Hanil Das

Could you share examples of new initiatives that you have taken to bridge the gap between academic learning and workplace skills?

At Westford, we have implemented multiple initiatives to bridge the gap. We offer industry-certified training programmes that align with the latest industry standards and equip students with specific skills and certifications sought after by employers. Another way of bridging this gap is through our partnerships and collaborations with certification bodies. We offer courses that prepare students for relevant certifications in their field. Westford offers a comprehensive array of resources and platforms to enhance students’ employability. Through initiatives such as the WeConnect, WeTalk, TEDx, Toastmasters Club, Gavels Club, industry immersions, and mentorship programmes, the institution diligently hones students’ abilities in communication, leadership, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence.

How do you see the role of research and experiential learning in enhancing the adaptability of graduates to workplace trends?

Through research, graduates gain insights into emerging trends and innovative practices, enabling them to anticipate and adapt to evolving workplace demands. Experiential learning offers hands-on opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world settings, fostering problem-solving abilities and adaptability to diverse work environments. Together, research and experiential learning empower graduates to navigate complex challenges, stay abreast of industry developments, and excel in rapidly changing professional landscapes.

“Learning together for working together”

Professor Hossam Hamdy, Chancellor, Gulf Medical University (GMU)

Professor Hossam Hamdy

How does GMU ensure that its students remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing healthcare industry?

At Gulf Medical University, ensuring students’ competitiveness in the evolving healthcare industry is prioritised through a dynamic approach, including regularly updating the curriculum to reflect industry trends, emphasising hands-on training and experiential learning, nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship, and providing comprehensive support for personal and professional development. Also, collaborative learning has been a cornerstone of our educational philosophy, which says, learning together for working together. Through collaborative endeavours, students not only learn together but also cultivate essential teamwork and communication skills, vital for success in the healthcare industry.

Could you share examples of courses introduced specifically to bridge the gap between academic learning and practical workplace skills?

GMU, with its six colleges, stands out for its diverse and comprehensive range of programmes tailored to bridge the gap between academic learning and practical workplace skills. Talking about diploma programmes, such as the Diploma of Dental Assistant and Diploma in Pharmacy Technician, students gain a strong foundation for further studies or entry into the workforce. At the undergraduate level, GMU offers a wide array of programmes spanning fields. The MD programme at GMU is highly regarded for its emphasis on clinical skills and hands-on training, ensuring that future doctors are well-equipped to provide quality patient care. Similarly, the Graduate Entry Doctor of Medicine programme offers a streamlined pathway for individuals to pursue their medical education while gaining essential practical skills. For those interested in advanced research, GMU offers a Ph.D. programme in Precision Medicine. Furthermore, GMU’s specialised master’s and graduate programmes developed in collaboration with renowned global partners, cover a wide range of disciplines.