Abu Dhabi charting a new course

ABU DHABI — The advancement of education, particularly higher education, is an integral part of the ‘Abu Dhabi Vision 2030’, which aims to reduce the emirate’s reliance on the oil sector as a source of economic activity and focus more on knowledge-based industries.

By Olivia Olarte

Published: Tue 29 Dec 2009, 10:05 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:28 AM

To realise this vision, it is imperative for the future leaders of the country to have access to quality education at home that would enable them to compete in this global economy.

To equip the young Emiratis for higher education, the Abu Dhabi education sector has amended its curriculum to put more emphasis on English language as the medium of instruction. The Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) recently hired a thousand native English-speaking teachers from Canada, the UK, the US, Australia and New Zealand to teach English, Math, Science and IT in English language at public schools across the emirate.

“English is the international language of business and science and is central to Abu Dhabi achieving its vision of economic growth and diversification. We need to improve the quality of schools in Abu Dhabi so that our students perform above the international average and support the workforce with the right skills. To this, we need to make some fundamental changes across the entire system now,” Dr Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, director-general of ADEC, had said earlier.

And to bring quality education to the UAE capital, the government has partnered with several international institutions.

In May 2006, under the patronage of General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Paris Sorbonne University officially opened its first overseas campus at Umm Al Nar in Abu Dhabi. It provides courses in arts, languages and social sciences.

Two years later, Paris Sorbonne University - Abu Dhabi (PSUAD) relocated to a new, purpose-built campus on Al Reem Island following a special ground-breaking ceremony on January 15, 2008 officiated by French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

In partnership with Agence France-Muséums, PSUAD will be offering a Master’s degree in ‘History of Art and Museum Studies’ starting next academic year. The scope of the programme includes History of Art, Archaeology and Museum Studies.

This year, two major launches happened with the arrival of two renowned names in Abu Dhabi’s higher education landscape.

INSEAD, the leading international business school, launched its world renowned Executive MBA (EMBA) programme for the 2010-11 academic year in October. The EMBA aims to attract executives, family business owners and entrepreneurs who wish to advance their management skills on its campus in Abu Dhabi.

In December, Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed was again the official figure that launched the downtown campus of the New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

According to officials at NYUAD, the new campus will be comprehensive, degree-granting, liberal arts and sciences college with select graduate and professional programmes and an institute of advanced research.

It will admit its inaugural undergraduate class of 100 students, drawn from the top high school students around the world, in August 2010.

The downtown campus will house all major academic cultural activities for NYUAD until the completion of the residential campus at Saadiyat Island in 2014.

Asked why NYU chose to establish its satellite branch in Abu Dhabi, Hilary Ballon, deputy vice-chancellor of NYUAD, told Khaleej Times, “We were interested in building a comprehensive programme, and Abu Dhabi was interested likewise in our vision of creating a superior institution. It’s really about common goals, common commitment to creating one of the outstanding universities in the 21st century.

“We are developing a liberal arts and science programme which stresses a broad education across a range of field. It is not a technical training. It is not focused on building a set of skills, it’s teaching people how to think.”

John Sexton, president of NYU, echoed Abu Dhabi’s vision when he said, “Preparing the next generation of global leaders requires a new approach to higher education.”

By bringing in quality institutions in the emirate, the government emphasises its intention of becoming a hub for higher education in the region.

As for the local universities, they have made several advancements of their own in terms of introducing new programmes in their respective curriculum as well as establishing research centres.

The United Arab Emirate’s University (UAEU) in Al Ain started offering the Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) programme this year.

The Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KUSTAR), meanwhile, will in future offer degrees in Engineering, Logistics and Management, Life Sciences and Homeland Security. The university is also developing an international centre for research and development to ensure that research becomes an integral part of the university.

Zayed University announced last week thelaunch of the first class in its Graduate Certificate in Diplomacy and International Affairs. The class included 23 male and female students. The programme seeks to create the next generation of diplomats who has adequate knowledge and understanding of world affairs and ready to contribute to the development of the UAE.

Zayed University is also currently developing its new campus at the Capital District which covers an area of 213,000 sq m that could accommodate up to 6,000 students. When completed in 2011, the new campus will comprise state-of-the-art academic and research facilities designed according to the highest international standards.

Noting the prime importance of education in the development of the country, Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education andScientific Research, said in October, “The UAE education sector is working to be at par with the universities in other parts of the world... to this effect, we are reviewing and refreshing all programmes in our universities because education is of prime importance in the development of the UAE.”

He added that the UAE is bringing into the country the best courses from around the world and incorporating them in the universities here.


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