Minister of Education Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi speaks at the “Remote” forum in Dubai on Thursday Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

Dubai: Students enrolled with UAE universities will be able to pursue online courses with international universities under a new remote learning project to be implemented by the Ministry of Education.

This was revealed by the UAE Minister of Education Dr Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi on Thursday, the second day of the “Remote” forum that aims to activate the nation’s pragmatic agenda for remote work, remote education and remote healthcare.

“We are introducing micro credentials, where you can be enrolled in a university in the UAE and as part of the programme, take an online programme that you get credit to,” he told Gulf News on the sidelines of the forum.

Micro credentials provide qualifications that can help students learn new subjects and skills that are not part of their university curriculum.

Explaining further, the minister said: “You can be enrolled at the university here. And then one of the courses you can take online with one of the accredited institutions...and you get credit for it at your own university. You don’t have to do all of your courses all in person at that university. You can choose a few that you can do remotely at another university, but still get credit for it at your own local university. That’s how we plan to integrate remote education.”

Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of State and President of Zayed University. Image Credit: Sajila Saseendran/Gulf News

How will it help?

Another speaker on the day, Michael Allen, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Zayed University, told Gulf News that universities will be encouraging micro credentials to enable students graduate with additional qualifications.

“We will increasingly see universities including ours do this.”

When students graduate with a regular bachelor's degree, he said, other courses get embedded with it, providing micro credentials.

“It might be project management, it might be something else. There are a number of things that don't require an entire major. And to get a micro credential in project management as an example, or in machine learning, you don't have to be a Tech major. This could be a student in the arts. This could be a student in the social sciences. It could be a student in any field who can show an employer, this is a set of skills that I've mastered and here's an industry recognised micro credential that demonstrates that.”

Another speaker, Basil Ayass, Regional Sales Lead at Google Cloud for the Education and Healthcare sector

in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, highlighted a similar initiative from Google that enables individuals to acquire professional certification equivalent to a degree.

Google launched its Career Certificates because “the conventional four-year degree is not modernising fast enough to keep up with the technology requirements that we have on the cutting edge fields.”

When Google announced that it will treat these certificates as a four-year bachelor degree, he said, 153 companies across the US, including some of the competitors of Google, joined its consortium and signed the pledge that they would also treat it the same way.

“So what needs to change in my opinion, is not the employers’ requirements. What needs to change is the offering of the universities.”

Partner challenge

Addressing a panel discussion on “Beyond the Campus : Exploring Opportunities and Challenges for Remote Higher Education,“ Noura Bint Mohammed Al Kaabi,

Minister of State and President of Zayed University, said universities should abolish the boundaries set around them and explore partnership opportunities that enable students to be future-ready.

In this regard, she said Zayed University has launched an initiative titled “Partner Challenge.” Through this initiative, each student is linked to a private company and is tasked to complete a real life challenge based on what they are learning during the academic year.

The initiative is expected to help students be future-ready before they graduate, said Al Kaabi.

“When our first cohort (enrolled in this initiative) graduates in 2025, each student will have a position with a private or public entity,” she said.