Dubai: Dubai: More than 500 students, parents and members of the academia visited Gulf News EduFair on its opening day today — the first on-the-ground event of its kind dedicated to higher education in the UAE. The event runs until Saturday at Shangri-La Hotel in Dubai.
Gulf News CEO, Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director of Publishing, Abdul Hamid Ahmad, led the ceremonial ribbon-cutting, with UAE University officials Prof. Ghaleb Al Hadrami Al Breiki, vice-chancellor; Prof. Ayesha Salem Al Dhaheri, associate provost for Student Affairs; and Philip Purnell, Ranking Projects manager.
Resilience amid pandemic
Welcoming the guests and visitors, David George, Publisher, Commercial, Gulf News Publishing, said: “As Gulf News marks this first on-the-ground event of its kind dedicated to higher education in the UAE. We pay our tributes to the resilience of students, professors and universities, who, in the face of the pandemic that forces almost every institute to close its doors, have ensured that learning continues.
“Amid the crisis of the pandemic, our universities have shown great leadership and innovation ensuring that learning never stops and no learner is left behind. They have worked individually and collectively to find solutions and create new learning environments for students to allow their education to continue.”
George also noted that “UAE-based universities have emerged as the preferred destination for thousands of students in the country and abroad”. It is for this reason that Gulf News has organised the face-to-face and free-to-attend Gulf News EduFair.
“We want to guide students and their families on all matters related to the September intake and beyond as we bring together leading universities in the UAE, offering world-class programmes under one roof,” he added.
Future of higher education
Top UAE educators spoke about the future of higher education and why universities must innovate to succeed. They also discussed how the pandemic has disrupted the higher education sector and moved universities to rethink effective student learning experiences.
Prof. Rashed Ali Alzahmi from the College of Business and Economics at UAE University said competition is very high as universities are not only competing locally, but also globally. He said: “We (higher education institutions) cannot stick to the traditional way of changing things slowly. Students now have easier access to learning resources, they can study locally and also have access to global education. We need to respond to their needs and move fast.”
Prof Srinivasan, director at BITS-Pilani Dubai campus, commented that the fundamental change that universities must bring about is to future-proof the students so the academic skills they acquire are unlikely to become obsolete. “Technology took over so many industries. Many jobs have become irrelevant today and present jobs may no longer be required in the future,” he noted, adding: “We should make education relevant and provide the right technology crucial to future proof the students.”
Key things graduates need
Dr Jason Fitzsimmons, academic president of Manipal Academy of Higher Education, said he had seen a lot of changes in academia, where institutions have moved away from offering only functional subjects. He said: “We have to listen to what the market needs. One of the key things graduates need is to develop critical and creative thinking. We have to develop their communication skills and we have introduced in our programmes, to make them more practical rather than just theoretical.”
Mohammad Ali Meraj, Business School faculty member at Middlesex University, added: “We now see students more focused on interdisciplinary learning. It’s an ever-changing education environment and there are jobs in the future we don’t know yet, but we can help students learn the necessary skills now.”
Out-of-the box ideas
Amitabh Upadhya, higher education scholar and administrator at Ad Global Banking School (GBS) Dubai, noted that universities should not only innovate, but also think out-of-the-box. He said: “Entrepreneurship should not only be restricted to business studies as technology is not only restricted to the tech studies. We must combine the two to fulfil the aspirations of the young generation. It is necessary to give them options so they can pursue their passions and combine knowledge and skills.”
Dr Sudhir Rana from the College of Healthcare Management and Economics at Gulf Medical University, added: “What is needed is a multi-disciplinary approach. Education is a continuous journey. We combine different disciplines to ensure a holistic development of the students.”
Making a mark in social media
Addressing one of the day’s sessions, Dr Ajay Shukla, managing director (Middle East, Africa and India) at EdOrbis, spoke about how students and even parents can build their personal brand on social media. Shukla said building a strong presence on social media will help improve someone’s profile and credibility. He said: “Establish yourself in social media; make an impression, participate and not just fill out a profile. Social media is the best platform to build a brand as it is free and the connection is vast.”
Opportunities with IELTS
In the last session of the day, Abdullah Jalal, account relationship manager at British Council, UAE, spoke about how IELTS (International English Language Testing System) can open opportunities for students and those who want to migrate to the United Kingdom or Canada. Jalal said there are free IELTS apps designed to help students ace the test and improve their chances of studying or migrating to a country where English is the native language, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and United States.
Students and their families can still register for this not-to-be-missed event that will run until Saturday at Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, along Sheikh Zayed Road. Visitors need to register in advance on the event’s dedicated website, https://gnedufair.com/.
Day 2 (August 13) sessions:
2pm-3pm: Panel discussion
Topic: Pandemic opportunities: Courses and degrees for the new world of work
Leading UAE education experts will speak about the programmes that universities in the UAE have or are launching this year to cater to the fields that will be in demand in post-COVID workplaces. They will also touch upon their collaborations with businesses, research associations and entrepreneurs to initiate cross-sector, future-focused research and learning, thereby making curricula more impactful.
Participating universities: RIT Dubai; Heriot-Watt University Dubai; Amity University Dubai; Westford University College; De Montfort University (DMU) Dubai.
3.30pm-4.15pm: Panel discussion. Topic: Charting your academic path: How schools can help you choose the right degree option by Bukhatir Education Advancement and Management (BEAM).
4.45pm-5.30pm: Workshop Topic: Start your journey to globally-recognised higher education in the UAE by Brighter Prep.