How UOWD’s Campus of the Future builds on the UAE’s vision for a knowledge-based economy

Professor Mohamed Salem, President of the Australian university's Dubai campus, charts out the institution's roadmap as the emirate emerges as the leading hub of the knowledge-based economy in the Arab world



by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Wed 16 Feb 2022, 2:36 PM

Last updated: Thu 17 Feb 2022, 8:25 AM

The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) has unveiled Campus of the Future, which is aligned to the emirate's emphasis on the knowledge-based economy.

Professor Mohamed Salem, President of UOWD, spoke with Khaleej Times about the new initiatives of the Australian university's Dubai campus.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How is the University of Wollongong in Dubai's (UOWD) Campus of the Future aligned to the emirate's emphasis on the knowledge-based economy?

Prof MS: Our campus of the Future is a significant milestone in the history of the university, which was established in 1993. We aim to set the benchmark for a new generation of global universities, and the 'Campus of the Future' will enable us to keep up with the pace of Dubai's ambitious growth plans.

UOWD's vision aligns with the vision of the UAE's leadership to build a knowledge-based economy to promote innovation, research and development. This campus is tailored to meet the demands and needs of the global employment market and will help unlock the potential for students to become a driving force of the UAE's economic development.

What're the innovations that have been introduced in the campus of the Future?

Prof MS: We are very pleased with the outcome of the campus and it has key elements which we believe are unique to the UAE education sector. UOWD's new campus features a modern architectural design that combines traditional and innovative learning spaces and is fitted out with cutting-edge technologies to facilitate the teaching of the university's best-in-class programs.

The campus is equipped with the newest technology and infrastructure that supports modern blended teaching and learning where online synchronous and asynchronous educational materials and opportunities for interaction with traditional classroom-based methods are combined. Students and thought leaders from around the world are now able to interact in a seamless manner in these collaborative spaces, supported by technology, to further augment the in-class and laboratory-based learning.

The campus includes dedicated and flexible spaces for learning ranging from meeting rooms for group work, small and large classrooms and an ultramodern auditorium. The new campus continues to be driven by our commitment to the student experience and includes formal and informal spaces, including an exhibition hall, a recruitment lounge, a student lounge, and a café — all under one roof. The premises also house teaching and research laboratories specialising in chemistry, thermodynamics, 3D manufacturing, physics, robotics, media and communications, networking and gaming, among many others.

Finally, the new campus features a modern library where the focus is strongly on empowering active learning and providing support for access to a vast number of digital learning resources.

How will it impact students' lives?

Prof MS: Our UOWD' Campus of the Future' has an intuitive balance of infrastructure, technology and pedagogy to create a welcoming, collaborative and functional space for our staff and students for years to come and was intended as an exemplar of the modern University.

The focus at UOWD is entirely on creating a "Future for students" and to provide them with a dynamic and innovative edge to education and to the workplace when they eventually graduate. The most recent Graduate Destination Survey conducted by the UAE Ministry of Education showed that UOWD graduates have a strong employment rate compared to the national average — 64 per cent of UOWD students are employed prior to graduation, with 85 per cent and 94 per cent of graduates surveyed employed within three and six months of graduating, respectively.

The design of our 'Campus of the Future' provides students with a dynamic and innovative edge to education and to the workplace when they eventually graduate. The rich learning experience is complemented by a wide range of opportunities for extra-curricular activities to harness the students' creativity. In particular, the new campus was designed to focus on collaboration through the utilisation of space and technology. It features 1,700 per cent more shared and collaborative space compared to our previous campus to provide opportunities for our students to further benefit from andragogical (methods and principles used in adult education) approaches to teaching and learning. The building features glass walls and active surfaces as a demonstration of an innovative future where we wanted to have learning on display. The technology applied has allowed us to enable blended learning and permits a new collaboration between Academic staff and students.

UOWD boasts many alumni who have made a mark across the world through notable contributions in various industries and professional sectors at leading multinational organisations such as Microsoft, GE, IBM, Deloitte, FedEx, 3M, Adidas, Amazon, Emirates, Etisalat, ADCB and PepsiCo. We believe that the Campus of the Future will enable students to continue to grow and create impact in sustainable ways.

Why is sustainability such a key theme for the 'Campus of the Future'?

Prof MS: Achievement of sustainable development goals is no longer an option, and we strongly believe that educational institutions have an important role to play in contributing to this goal in an impactful manner. Learning outcomes related to sustainability are therefore emphasised in UOWD's curricula at different levels, including foundational core requirements and also across majors and research capstone projects.

We are delighted that we can offer an aspirational and inspirational environment for our staff and students as part of the new campus, where we can demonstrate our ability to embed United Nations' (UN) sustainable goals in everything that we do. Modern sustainability design and fit-out allowed us to reduce power consumption and a measurable and pleasing outcome of this new campus was the digitisation of over five tonnes of paper and in the first few months of operation, a 96 per cent reduction in printing compared to the previous campus, which equates to six trees being saved each and every month.

How is Dubai consolidating its position as the global hub for business and innovation?

Prof MS: Dubai has quickly become a global hub for business, innovation and the future economy, that has become a magnet for the world's brightest talents. The ecosystem created by Dubai for innovative business ideas is now ingrained into many sectors and is empowering both citizens and residents.

From an academic perspective, education is a transformative force for humanity, and we are on the right track to continuing to nurture the next generation of people that will take Dubai and the UAE to even greater heights. The choice of the location of UOWD's new campus in the middle of TECOM's creative clusters is part of our strategic direction to strengthen ties between academia and industry as part of Dubai's great ambition to become a leading hub for business and innovation.

How old is UOWD's campus in the emirate?

UOWD is part of the University of Wollongong global network comprising campuses in Hong Kong, Malaysia and the main campus in Wollongong, Australia. UOWD is located in the heart of Dubai's vibrant education and training cluster, Dubai Knowledge Park. UOWD was formed in 1993 and started with smaller facilities but the growth of students' numbers driven by a strong reputation in the UAE and the region led to the deployment of a much more comprehensive set of academic programs and an urgent need for a state-of-arts build-for-purpose campus.

Our Campus of the Future, inaugurated in January 2022 by the Governor General of Australia, represents a long-term strategic commitment to our mission to continue to contribute to human capital development in alignment with the strategic vision of Dubai, the UAE and the region.

What are the key attributes UOWD looks at in prospective undergraduate students when they apply to study at the university?

Prof. MS: Every year, there is increased competition for undergraduate placements. Our transformative priority is to continue to provide experiential and immersive opportunities to our students to develop key skills to be able to compete and prosper in a global economy.

When we go through the enrollment process, we look for a variety of things such as propensity to complete a degree, evidence of passion for the chosen subject, evidence of positive attitude towards study and ability to think/work independently, ability to persevere and complete tasks, good presentation skills, ability to work well in groups, and so on.

UOWD believes in creating opportunities for all and provide thus, a quite unique set of foundational studies and bespoke pathways to prepare students, from all over the world, for higher educational studies here in Dubai.

What kind of scholarships do you offer, and what is the eligibility to bag them?

Prof MS: UOWD provides a range of merit and sports scholarships as well as financial support bursaries to new and continuing students. For example, during the difficult times with Covid-19, UOWD offered quite generous grants for students to cover their tuition fees.

Students need to apply for scholarships and grants at admission time, and continuing students have the opportunity to apply for merit scholarships and financial aid as they progress in their studies.

joydeep@khaleejtimes.com


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