Image Credit: GN Archives

Better skills are key to better jobs and better lives. The UAE realised in the early years since its founding that the undeveloped skills and talents of its youth stood to offer far greater returns than its natural resources.

In this regard, from the outset the UAE has focused on its education sector and made it a key driver for economic growth. The sector, while helping educate its population also provided the foundation for future growth and success by promoting a sense of entrepreneurship and innovation among UAE citizens from an early stage. The fact that the UAE, within a relatively short period is also home to some of the most respected and premier global institutions in the field of education is a measure of how seriously the UAE Government views education as a sector, and its scope.

Integral to operational strategy

On their part, university bodies in the UAE have also realised that the best way forward to promote innovation and entreprenurship within student communities would be to get them as close as possible to the source - successful entrepreneurs and UAE and global heads of industry. Keeping this in mind, the scope for academia-industry collaboration has therefore enjoyed positive growth over the last decade in the UAE, benefiting all stakeholders at play – the students, universities and UAE industry.

Dr Susan Mumm, Chancellor, American University of Sharjah (AUS), believes community engagement and industry partnerships are integral to AUS’ strategic and operational work.

Dr Susan Mumm

“We continuously seek to foster sustainable and valuable partnerships with various stakeholders nationally and internationally, preserving our vital role as an integrator between industry and students. It is this integration that differentiates our academic programmes, as we continue to maintain the currency of our curricula with the ever-dynamic market. Industry partnerships allow us to understand current market needs and provide support through diversified research and collaborative training to meet them.

“These partnerships further allow us to provide our students, who are at the heart of our educational mission, with vital connections with industry.”

Generating the world’s best entrepreneurs

Randa Bessiso, Director - Middle East, The University of Manchester, feels the university is in fact aligned with the UAE National Agenda that aims for the nation to be the best in the world of entrepreneurship, by providing a dynamic portfolio of Master’s programmes for working professionals to hone new skillsets for future workplaces.

Randa Bessiso

“In the Middle East, The University of Manchester offers a dynamic portfolio of part-time flexible learning Master’s programmes for experienced working professionals, including The Global Part0-time MBA and industry-led specialist Master’s in Financial Management,” says Bessiso.

“All the programmes are led by Manchester faculty and provide self-study and as much face-to-face contact time through workshops or course conferences as many full-time programmes, with the additional valuable professional networking opportunities these bring. MBA programmes can be tailored to specific learning needs and career objectives, with the option of accelerated pathways for eligible qualified professionals.

“Typical students have around 10 years of business experience and many already hold a Master’s degree and are in management/executive positions. They are looking to accelerate or switch corporate careers or pursue a more entrepreneurial pathway.”

At Westford University College, the approach to higher education, says Hanil Das, its Co-founder and CEO, has led to it achieving a 98 per cent student success rate, a lot of which also has to do with the constant exposure that the university provides its students to industry bodies.

360-degree student-life experience

“The institution makes constant efforts to offer its students an immersive, 360-degree student-life experience,” says Das. “It goes above and beyond to organise workshops and industry visits.”

Hanil Das

Additionally, reveals Das, Westford students also receive opportunities to participate in various extracurricular initiatives that promote academia-industry collaboration. This includes the following:

• WeConnect: The unique Westford University College programme works towards connecting C-Suite business leaders with Westford students, expanding their horizons of networking and their scope of future employability.

• Westford Mentorship Programme: A reciprocal learning opportunity between the institution’s MBA alumni currently at leadership roles in the industry and the institution’s day scholars who are pursuing their bachelor’s degree. Through this programme, while current leaders receive an opportunity to refine their managerial skills, the undergraduate students benefit from acquiring current-time industry insight along with a chance to create long-term relations with professionals who harbour the potential to support their career growth.

“Our vision will always remain to make higher education accessible and affordable,” says Das. “Westford is also a firm believer of enabling students to maintain a healthy work-life-study balance. Through our synchronous blended learning pedagogical approach and flexible class schedules for selected programmes, we are able to reach aspiring students, regardless of their location and lifestyle. We are always working towards adapting to the evolving business landscape and incorporating updated theories and skillset into our programmes to offer the finest quality of academic experience to our students.”

In 21st century economies, knowledge and skills have become the global currency, and it is essential that high value is placed on education and academia-industry collaboration so that a world-class education system can be built, allowing growing economies to profit from the entreprenurial streak that is sure to follow.

Seeing the initiatives fronted by universities in the UAE that promote this collaboration, the nation is well on its way to being the world's entreprenurial hub in the months and years to come.