Dubai: The UAE Ministry of Education and the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education have launched the University Consortium for Quality Online Learning (UCQOL), a new initiative that aims to support select UAE universities in developing accredited online university programmes and launch them by 2022.
In a joint virtual meeting co-organised by the Ministry of Education and the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, the two entities announced the launch of two-year public private partnership intent on making high quality accredited online programmes accessible to a wider pool of students in the UAE and beyond, increasing collaboration among universities in the UAE and building their capacities in the field of online learning.
The initiative aims to support UAE universities committed to develop and deliver high-quality accredited programmes online by 2022. The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education will provide UCQOL member universities with various forms of support including structured needs assessments, faculty and instructional designer training, and grants to support the design and delivery of their online programmes. In addition, UCQOL will serve as a UAE-based professional learning community to exchange, collaborate and advocate jointly on the issue of online learning.
This initiative aligns with the UAE National Innovation Strategy of promoting innovation in education and the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030 aimed at preparing a new generation of Emiratis to face future challenges. It also comes following the 2019 release by the Ministry’s Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) of a clear and robust framework and standards for accrediting online degree programmes in the UAE. This is part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts to facilitate the process and incentivise universities to put forward high-quality online degree programmes.
Dr Muhammad Al Mualla, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Education for Academic Affairs of Higher Education, stressed on the importance of moving forward in adding new dimensions to university education at the national level by adopting the best pioneering academic options, including working to expand the base of online accredited academic programmes offered by national universities is a move that is fully consistent with the national innovation strategy, which has devoted much space to higher education in order to consolidate innovative educational experiences that constitute a qualitative addition to the patterns of education in the country.
The official indicated that the launch of the UAE University Consortium for Quality Online Learning in cooperation with the Abdullah Al Ghurair Foundation for Education came in the context of working to achieve the vision of the Ministry of Education, especially with regards to the higher education sector and the provision of national academic experiences to keep pace with the rapid developments that affect the nature of education now and in the future, indicating that the online learning system that was applied during the last period was a test for all national universities in their ability to deal with this crisis and overcome it by making their academic programmes available through smart platforms which enabled students to continue their university achievement.
He explained that the ministry is working in cooperation with all of its partners to provide higher education with the best experiences and innovative educational practices coordinated with the highest international standards in this field, enabling the higher education sector to achieve specific leaps that will reflect positively on the quality of the national academic outputs.
The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education is considered a leader in online learning in the Arab region, promoting and supporting access to this model of learning since 2016. Through the Al Ghurair Open Learning Scholars Programme (OLSP), it has provided over 250 scholarships to Arab Youth to complete postgraduate degrees and credentials at Arizona State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology online (MITx). It has also supported online and blended learning capacity building efforts at the American University in Cairo in Egypt and American University of Beirut in Lebanon where it continues to work with the Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture in this regard.
“We are excited to launch a three-way partnership in the UAE because of a joint commitment with the Ministry and leading universities to making high-quality accredited online education part of the landscape of UAE higher education. I am confident that this project will have far-reaching outcomes not just in the UAE, but across the region.” said His Excellency Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair in his remarks at the launch event.