Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park are collectively home to more than 27,000 students and believe the emirate’s education sector has more than a few reasons to be optimistic about the future.
A COVID-19 vaccine roll-out encouraging more students back to campus, progress on key projects and the introduction of golden visas has created a favourable wind for the UAE’s academic community, despite ongoing global challenges.
After breaking ground in 2019, construction on The University of Birmingham’s state-of-the-art campus in Dubai International Academic City is in full swing. Ranked among the world’s top 100 universities, the elite British institution will accommodate up to 2,900 students upon completion.
Meanwhile, the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) opened the doors of its 200,000 sq ft Campus of the Future in Dubai Knowledge Park in August 2020. It features a modern architectural design that combines contemporary and innovation-focused learning spaces with cutting-edge technologies. As the first international university in the UAE, UOWD also generated the highest admissions intake in seven years in 2020, following a series of successful marketing campaigns.
Heriot-Watt University Dubai has also been readying for a move into a new state-of-the-art 218,000 sq ft campus in Dubai Knowledge Park in 2021. The digitally-enabled campus is conceived to adhere to the latest directives from the government, guaranteeing students’ safety, from blended learning to providing remote access to resources, allowing for the changing landscape of education post COVID-19.
Australia’s Murdoch University also inaugurated a 27,000 sq ft campus in May 2020 in Dubai Knowledge Park, twice the size of its former premises in Dubai International Academic City. It features world-class facilities including a dedicated cybersecurity lab and education-focused furniture and interiors to promote a collaborative teaching and learning environment.
All of the institutes are focused on future-proofing the next generation of graduates, a task that has become more pertinent following the global academic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Mohammad Abdullah, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Park, said: “Education is facing its biggest upheaval in decades, but our communities are uniquely positioned to adapt. With a number of future-focused campuses already open or poised to do – alongside favourable rules and regulations from our wiser leaders – the emirate has become an even more attractive destination for learning and development.
He added: “Education and talent are intrinsically linked to the UAE’s vision for a knowledge and innovation-based economy. Recent studies have shown that young people are confident about competing for jobs globally and we have a responsibility to ensure they succeed. As the world’s largest academic ecosystem, it’s our role to create the right environment with state-of-the-art infrastructure, space to scale, and business-friendly regulations to attract the best universities to Dubai to capitalise on the confidence of youth. The optimism of youth is reason alone to be cautiously optimistic about the future.”
For his part, Ben Bailey, Campus Director, University of Birmingham Dubai, said: “After what has been a challenging year, we were incredibly proud to see our University of Birmingham Dubai graduates qualify and enter great employment destinations. Our team have worked tirelessly to ensure that high quality education has continued for all of our students throughout 2020 and we are now looking forward to 2021 with great optimism.
He added: “We will be opening our new state-of-the-art campus in September, and as vaccines begin to help manage the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in the UAE and around the world, Dubai and the UAE are well positioned to support the continued growth and development of the Higher Education sector in the Emirates. We remain committed to providing excellent education and an outstanding and safe student experience, and look forward to welcoming new undergraduate and postgraduate students to our Business, Engineering, Computer Science, Psychology, Education and Law programmes for 2021.”
Professor Mohamed Salem, President of University of Wollongong Dubai, noted: “University of Wollongong Dubai has a 27-year history of academic excellence in the UAE and is a leader in the regional tertiary education landscape. Our new campus embodies UOWD’s commitment to offering students the most advanced learning journey in the region, and reflects our passion for innovation in the field of higher education. As the world shifts towards blended learning and the digitalisation of the conventional education model, the launch of our new campus is particularly timely – incorporating traditional and modern teaching elements that are critical for today’s students to excel.”
Commenting on the 2021 outlook, Professor Ammar Kaka, the Provost and Vice Principal of Heriot-Watt University Dubai said: “2020 has seen the pandemic impacting several industries, however with the roll-out of the vaccine, we are confident that we will see the start of economic recovery in 2021. We are eagerly looking forward to the new year and all that it will bring. Most importantly, we have made significant progress in the development of our new campus and will be readying for the move into our new building in a few short months from now. Located as it is in Dubai Knowledge Park means we will now be right at the heart of the modern business and digital community in Dubai. This makes the campus location a rich environment for industry-academia collaboration and will also open up work-based learning opportunities for our students. We laud the wise leadership of the UAE for all the steps they have taken in mitigating the impact of COVID-19 and ensuring speedy availability of the vaccine and look forward to a bright and successful 2021.”
Dr James Trotter, Dean and Academic President at Murdoch University Dubai, added: “2020 has been a challenging year but not without recurring instances of harmony and resilience, and the constant reminder that together we can overcome any challenge. With the hope of a successful roll out of effective vaccines in 2021, we at Murdoch Dubai look forward to the full activation of our amazing new campus in Dubai Knowledge Park and an eventual return to face-to-face teaching and events.”
In October 2020, Dubai International Academic City, KPMG and The Talent Enterprise launched the key findings of a collaborative research effort called What About Youth? The study found that 72 per cent of students are confident in their soft and hard skills to compete for work anywhere in the world. It represents the views of more than 153,000 young people across the region, revealing that nearly eight in 10 young people are excited about what the future holds, with 88 per cent believing the best is yet to come.
Dubai International Academic City is the world’s largest academic ecosystem and is home to 27 universities from nine countries including Middlesex University, University of Manchester, University of Strathclyde, University of Bradford, Hult International Business School, Curtin University, SP Jain School of Global Management, Amity University, BITS Pilani and Manipal Academy of Higher Education. Dubai Knowledge Park, a community focused on education, vocational training and human resources, is also home to an impressive roster of world-renowned institutions.