Exclusive Interview with DIAC’s Mohammad Abdullah
UAE: In line with its 10th anniversary celebration, Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) has announced the launch of three leading universities – Curtin University, Abu Dhabi University and United Arab Emirates University.
Edarabia had the chance to sit down for an interview with the Managing Director of DIAC, Mohammad Abdullah, where he described the milestones that shaped the DIAC for the past decade, as well as future plans.
See the full interview here:
DIAC has come a long way from its founding, what have been some of the key accomplishments?
- Since our launch in 2007, which took place at GETEX, DIAC is now a leading educational hub with over 25,000 students of 150 nationalities and more than 450 degree programmes. Our sprawling educational hub spanning 18 million square feet, comprises state-of-the art facilities and hosts several leading International Branch Campuses (IBCs).
- The growth of DIAC has been a direct correlation to the growth of Dubai overall as an international education destination. We have spent many years actively engaging with our academic partners to provide networking events aimed at bringing together key stakeholders while ensuring the growth of a vibrant and diverse community.
- Since our launch in 2007, we have had many new initiatives introduced, including student orientations events, DIAC Career Fair, an exhibition which matches companies with students for job opportunities, DIAC Open Day, a networking event where K12 students meet with universities to understand which degrees to undertake and DIAC Sports Cup, an annual sporting event bringing together 22 universities and over 2,000 students.
- We strongly believe in supporting the entire lifecycle for university students from enrolment through to graduation. DIAC’s education experience is tailored to ensure students are equipped with the necessary skills when they enter the workforce. Unlike other students, DIAC’s students can enter into internship and part- time working arrangements under TECOM group’s unique student visa scheme.
- Our reputed academic partners is also one of our strongest achievements. We have always encouraged our academic partners to start small, demonstrate value, and grow organically. Since inception, we have had 5 universities begin with small office spaces but have now grown and expanded to take their own campuses. BITS Pilani, Manipal University, Institute of Management Technology (IMT) Dubai, Amity University Dubai Campus, Heriot Watt University and most recently University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) have all expanded to their own, purpose-built campuses.
With e-learning and online tutoring growing in popularity, what would the future higher education landscape look like in the next 10 years?
- In order to address the increasing digitalization, higher education institutions will need to tailor their academic offering; adapting to offer less formal learning environments, more online, virtual learning and non-traditional classes that attract the new generation of students today. Some of our universities have already adopted these concepts by offering blended learning programmes, where some of the classes are delivered via webinars and online streaming, and other sections are delivered by traditional classroom offerings.
- As new technologies and methods become available, the way we teach and are taught must by necessity change as well. While the core principles and basics of education remain, the method by which these are accomplished must by necessity adapt to meet the needs of students and the workforce.
- I also believe that our international student community of 150 nationalities will truly prepare the DIAC students for the boardrooms of the future. I see transnationalisation as a major trend in both the classroom and the office, and that eventually education and work will be borderless. We are moving towards these trends and I believe that the international and multicultural nature of Dubai is preparing students for this eventuality.
Tell us a bit more about DIAC’s new announcements.
- In 2017, we are honoured to announce the launch of three leading universities – Curtin University, Abu Dhabi University and United Arab Emirates University in DIAC.
- Growing our portfolio of high-quality academic partners will always be a key priority for us, especially as we work towards contributing to the UAE’s national strategy for innovation. As part of our efforts to ensure our students succeed in an increasingly competitive world, we consistently seek outstanding academic partners to complement our diverse higher education community.
- Recognised for its strong connections with industry, high-impact research and wide range of innovative courses, we believe Curtain University will be a great fit for our growing, diverse student body. As we look further into the future, our partnership with globally connected universities such as Curtin is particularly important in advancing the UAE’s vision of innovation and developing a diversified, innovation-focused economy.
- By expanding to Dubai, Abu Dhabi University and United Arab Emirates University are delivering on the leadership’s priorities in the education sector by empowering graduates to develop skills that are aligned with high-impact sectors of local and global relevance, all of which help in shaping the future leaders of the region.
- Another notable partner in the education space which recently launched with us is BMI Media, the world’s leading education event’s organizer which helps education institutions grow and diversify their international student enrollments. With a database of more than 500,000 students and 20,000 educational institutions (K12 Schools, Universities, Vocational Institutions), BMI is a key in helping us attract high quality students and institutions from all over the world.
How does DIAC plan to contribute to HH Sheikh Mohammed’s Smart Dubai Initiative?
- An integral part of the Smart Dubai Initiative lies on developing human capital with various forms of education and lists public involvement and education via e-community centres, digital and social communication channels and alternative skills development as primary focus areas.
- AT DIAC, we understand the importance of planning ahead and investing in the right training initiatives to support graduates to develop their skills for the future.
- The Student Part-time Work Visa will enable the next generation of creative talent to gain critical industry experience to complement their fields of study and increase their employment prospects post-graduation, bridging the knowledge-skills gap.
According to Oxford University, over 40% of jobs will be lost to automation in the next 25 years. How can the students of today better prepare for future jobs?
- As the world adjusts to the demands of the digital revolution, helping young people navigate the challenges and opportunities is critical. Automation is inevitable and it is vital that students learn the skills necessary to take advantage of the new job possibilities created by automation.
- As such, at Dubai International Academic City, we strongly believe in partnering with Universities that focus on inspiring young scientific talent to consider STEM as both a study and a career option by showcasing the employment opportunities they could potentially gain.
- For instance, a majority of our academic partners are already offering undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD courses especially in the field of robotics and STEM. One of our long-standing partners, Heriot-Watt University, is pioneering robotics research that will revolutionize the global economy over the next 20 years: spanning the nuclear, space and the offshore industries, transport, healthcare and manufacturing.
- Amity University Dubai and University of Wollongong in Dubai both host Robotic Competitions and workshops. The UOWD Robotics Competition aims to create, promote and enrich the student community in the UAE, helping students to gain knowledge and experience in conceptualising, designing, building, programming and testing robots. Amity University’s ‘Technoscience and Robotech event brings together more than 300 young engineering students in the UAE to use robotics to solve issues facing the environment and business.
Abdullah stressed that with the growth of transnational student population comes the objective to promote Dubai as an international education hub.
DIAC aims to attract international universities offering degrees programmes suitable to the demands of the market. These three universities will become an addition to the American University in the Emirates, The British University in Dubai, Hult International Business School, Manchester Business School, Middlesex University, Murdoch University and many more in DIAC.