What educational system is HBMeU based upon?
AL AWAR: We are trying to build a university of the future and a university of the future has different characteristics than a traditional university; it is a university that has an open system. A university of the future needs to be an academic enterprise rather than a conventional black box. e-Learning is revolutionizing the concept of education worldwide. We need to put into place an educational system for the entire region for the future. Today, although shopping is essential, shopping malls are not; banking is essential, but banks as brick and mortar are not; schooling is essential, but schools are not anymore; learning is essential, but universities are not anymore.
Where are the majority of your students from? Are there any new enrollment trends currently taking place?
AL AWAR: We have this common dimension with all the other conventional universities in the Arab world. Over time we see our capacity changing because of our unique offerings. We have students from the entire Arab world, from Pakistan, Europe, Turkey, and a few from other places around the world.
In what ways is today’s UAE job market different for new graduates? How has HBMeU’s curriculum adapting for the change? In what capacity, if any, is the private sector involved in curriculum development?
AL AWAR: Today, too many universities in the Arab world are not contributing enough to the economies of the region. There are too many universities pumping out unqualified graduates with degrees but without the proper skills. Universities should be responsible for making sure that their graduates are going to fill needed positions. We are unique because most of our students already have employment and we know the pulse of the market. Are we responding to the needs of the market? I think this is upside down. Universities should lead the market. Two years ago the market has fallen considerably. When people’s income falls, they take that time to polish their skills and gain further levels of education and then go back to do something else.
How important is research in tertiary education?
AL AWAR: Leadership status does not come to a university at all without a research agenda. Research is all about knowledge contribution and knowledge exchange with the rest of the world. We have a very comprehensive approach to research. We have three conferences we hold every year, the Quality Congress, the e-Learning forum, and the e-Health and Environment forum, and these stimulate thinking all over the Middle East. We also have eight online academic journals for people to publish their research. After a few publications, we also have the capabilities through our publishing house to put research to print in order to better distribute knowledge.
Today, although shopping is essential, shopping malls are not; banking is essential, but banks as brick and mortar are not; schooling is essential, but schools are not anymore; learning is essential, but universities are not anymore.
We are also Arabizing scientific books. There is a market need for published Arabic research. Today, we are distributing this Arabized content to the local bookstores. Our research can be found next to Harvard’s in the local bookstores. We focus on exporting knowledge so that it is not just a one-way transaction. If you are not creating a product for your markets, which for universities is knowledge, and your products are not updated, then no one will consume them. Today, we have created platforms to distribute our products. We are also exchanging our programs with the rest of the world. For the first time our Master’s degree in Excellence in Environmental Management is going to be taught in Cannes in France. That is a big leap forward in terms of how we interact with the international community.