Dr Nabil Ibrahim is the Chancellor of Abu Dhabi University, an internationally recognised university with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. He speaks with Elets News Network (ENN) about UAE as a viable destination for education, emerging trends in education, role of technology in education, Abu Dhabi University’s strategy to keep up with the changing education trends and more
With increasing number of student traffic getting directed towards the UAE, what are the primary factors that are making the UAE a viable destination for education?
For education in other country, international students look for three important areas:
- Quality of education they receive;
- If the environment and infrastructure available is supportive of them, culturally, socially and academically; and
- Importantly, to make sure that the education they get will enhance their chances of getting a rewarding job.
When you see these three elements and look at the UAE, you’ll find that these elements exist in the UAE. It is a destination where students can have a very good education. The quality of education in many universities of the UAE is as good as any other place. For example, Abu Dhabi University will very soon achieve accreditation in the United States (US) to be recognised in the US. The quality of education of Abu Dhabi University is best not only in Abu Dhabi but also in the US. We have international standards of education and many other universities in the UAE offer the same. This has made Abu Dhabi University a remarkable name among the international students as they are likely to find a job after their graduation. The rate of placements of graduates from Abu Dhabi University in the last four years has been averaging 90 per cent, the highest worldwide. The students at the University are 40 per cent nationals and 60 per cent international.
What are the emerging trends, defining transnational education in the UAE?
Since the beginning of second half of the 21st century, there has been a major paradigm shift in technology, particularly in the high tech area. This has created globalisation and boundaries between countries are lowered. Now, we can easily contact and interact with people virtually, without going to that place.
In education, this technology has been translated into two things:
- High speed internet: Through this, students and faculty can do interaction with other universities worldwide, easily.
- Collaborations between universities: Advancement in technology has really made it possible to enhance communication and ability of students to learn, regardless where ever they are.
Now, the universities are dealing with a large number of students, being involved in a course. However, they don’t have to necessarily come to campus. This is made possible due to the technology.
It is important to note that libraries have been really going through a rapid change nowadays. Instead of being places to store books, libraries are now become places to interact with other people, either face-to-face or virtually. You can access the information you need online, regardless of where you are. You don’t have to go to the library to get a book. You can read it online or borrow it.
Now, not only the places where you learn and the locations where the universities are, the technology has changed the means and tools of learning. You can learn virtually as the sources of knowledge are available mostly online. And this has created a change in the way universities offer their courses and programmes.
There is a lack of collaboration between the universities in the UAE and abroad. And the conferences like WES would be a good forum to interact, collaborate and develop strategies to work together, especially in areas like research, student learning, etc.
How the governing bodies like Abu Dhabi Education Council, Ministry of Higher Education, etc, can help in setting up of good education in UAE?
In fact, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has accreditation criteria, which is very good, rigorous and carved after the accreditation boards of the US, so they often require the university be accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education. They ensure the quality of education in every programme. For example, at Abu Dhabi University, we have around 35 different programmes. Before we offer, each programme has to go for approval from both the Abu Dhabi Education Council and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. It is an important standard for universities like us.
We also seek approval from international universities. Our College of Business is accredited by international accreditation agency called AACSB and the College of Engineering is accredited by ABET. We are now seeking international accreditation for every programme through WASK (Western Association of Schools and Colleges in the US). These national and international accreditations make our education programmes a lot more attractive, not only to students in the UAE but also to students abroad. We, at Abu Dhabi University, have students from Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Digital technology is revolutionising the education sector and is changing both the need and practice of learning and teaching. What is your strategy in the coming years to keep pace with the changing trends?
Obviously, there are dynamics that changes every day. Now, we have lot of tools to actually facilitate learning, understand how to communicate with the students, to enhance our relationship with our customers, no matter where they are. We continuously try to catch up with what is going on. We participate in all kinds of activities such as conferences, exchange of ideas, looking at what is new and exciting in the world. Our faculty go to other universities and present their work all over the world. Our students are benefitting from this. For example, in May this year, we are going to have one of the biggest conferences in the UAE, focussed on undergraduate research activity.
Do you want to give any message on World Education Summit, 2016?
I really think collaboration is very important. The Summit is not only the opportunity to present what has been done, although useful, but really to collaborate worldwide to work together so that the students will benefit from this collaboration.
I feel that there is a lack of collaboration between the universities in the UAE and abroad. And the conferences like WES would be a good forum to interact, collaborate and develop strategies to work together, especially in areas like research, student learning, etc.