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With the pandemic highlighting the need for flexible learning at all ages, higher education in the UAE too is changing in response to social and economic trends. Besides remote instruction, most universities now cater to all age categories, while offering blended learning and intentional pathways.

“The pandemic accelerated a trend that education professionals were foreseeing as the future of learning,” says Dr Slim Saidi, Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at RIT Dubai. “Learners are expecting the experience to be equal and equally relevant and engaging through any means, at any location even on the move. Life-long learning is critical and jobs will not only require inventing new ideas and products but also people need to reinvent themselves again and again.”

An emerging trend is that working professionals are reskilling to remain competitive in an uncertain job market. “Even before the pandemic we provided postgraduate courses in the evenings, so it has been easy to position ourselves as an attractive option for learners who want to work while pursuing professional development in major sectors,” says Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Middlesex University and Director of Middlesex University Dubai.

“We also continue to offer blended learning, so students who prefer to stay off campus do not have to interrupt their education.”

Interdisciplinary learning has gained currency when life expectancies have increased and people may conceivably expect to have more than one profession over their careers.

“Given the everchanging employability dynamics, higher education should be agile, offering an interdisciplinary education within set guidelines. This allows a student to follow a study plan that is personal and conducive to pursuing a future career,” says Dr Nadia M. Al Hasani, Professor and Dean at the University of Sharjah’s College of Fine Arts and Design (CAFD).