Where are the majority of your students from? Are there any new enrollment trends currently taking place?
IBRAHIM: Most of our students come from the Middle East. About 40% of our students come from the UAE and the remainder comes from 51 different countries throughout the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and now increasingly, we have students coming from Africa. I believe students from Africa see the UAE market as a bridge between what they have in Africa and the European and American system of education. Abu Dhabi University serves as a bridge between cultures. We have a very deeply rooted Middle Eastern culture here, but we offer a world-class education similar to what would be found in the United States and Western Europe.
How would you describe competition among local universities here in the UAE? What makes Abu Dhabi University (ADU) different?
IBRAHIM: Competition is something that I believe is healthy and is needed. We have been experiencing increasing competition in the Abu Dhabi market and in the UAE market in general. However, students and their parents are becoming more and more focused and they do a lot of research to find out which university can provide the highest value for the investment they make in education. Abu Dhabi University works very hard on two levels. One is to deliver high quality education that provides students with opportunities for careers. Secondly, we pride ourselves on the fact that 94% of our graduates find jobs soon after they graduate. This is very important and is one of the reasons why increasing numbers of students from the UAE and the Middle East come to us.
What kind of support are you receiving from the government?
IBRAHIM: As a private university, we do not receive much support from the government. We depend very much on the tuition that students pay. However, the government has now developed strategies to support research and development and Abu Dhabi University is taking the lead in developing a very active research program that is aligning itself with Vision 2030, the new economy, and the knowledge based economy that the UAE is keen on developing in the near future. We hope that Abu Dhabi University will have increasing share of the research support that the government is now thinking about offering to institutions.
In what ways are women empowered to lead successful professional careers after they graduate?
IBRAHIM: The trend has been that women are more focused, achieve better, and in fact, are inclined to pursue careers that are more practical, focusing on engineering, sciences, and the areas that are typically not very attractive to men that we have. On the other hand, a lot of male students tend to go into business, humanities, and education and other careers. The other development that we have at Abu Dhabi University is a leadership development program for women. I am very impressed by some of the women leaders that we have. They take initiative and they participate. On our university council, we have active participation of students, both males and females, but the females in particular have a desire to assume leadership roles and actually develop not only individually, but in groups. So I am very pleased with that.
How is ADU’s curriculum adapting to the changes in the economy?
IBRAHIM: Our curriculum is continuously changing in order to have relevant coursework that meets the demands of the job market. We have different ways of doing that. One of them is to have different advisory boards. Every college that we have has an industry advisory board that participates actively in critiquing our curriculum and looking at the qualifications of our graduates and how we can modify different topics to be more applicable and useful for our graduates’ futures. We have very strong contact with our employers. We also have continuous surveys to figure out what employers think of our graduates and to get feedback from employers on our students. We have job fairs every year where we invite 50 to 60 employers to Abu Dhabi University. Through that interaction, we get to learn more about their needs and their expectations and their future demands.
The future worldwide, in terms of the 21st century, will move in the direction of innovation. Without innovation most academic institutions will not be able to survive. Research is a necessity for us. The way we look at it is to look at relevant research; research that is going to contribute significantly to social and economic development in the UAE. When you frame the question in this way, then research becomes a means for innovation.
The future worldwide, in terms of the 21st century, will move in the direction of innovation. Without innovation most academic institutions will not be able to survive. Research is a necessity for us. The way we look at it is to look at relevant research; research that is going to contribute significantly to social and economic development in the UAE. When you frame the question in this way, then research becomes a means for innovation. That is why I am encouraging our faculty to look at research not for the sake of research, but for the social and economic development in the UAE and in the MENA region as a whole. That makes us put more emphasis on things such as desalination of water as a strategic research area for the future, especially in places like the GCC and North Africa. We also see a significant importance of renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wing, and geothermal. We should increasingly look into microelectronics and how microelectronics can become a source of employment for a large number of people. We have sand here and if sand is processed properly, silicon, which is the basic material for microelectronics, can be extracted from it. I am very pleased to see the UAE is moving in that direction and we hope our students will participate actively in jobs that will be available in the microelectronics-manufacturing sector. IT and information technology is extremely important and our faculty is participating in those strategic areas. The university provides incentives for our faculty to develop their expertise in those niche areas that we hope, within the next 3 to 5 years, will distinguish Abu Dhabi University from any other university in the region.
Are the demands on the UAE’s youth different from those placed on previous generations? In what ways is today’s UAE job market different for graduates?
IBRAHIM: The job market is changing very rapidly. Smart institutions must continue to do environmental scanning to follow the job market and then go back and develop programs that can meet the demands of the new job market. As we move into the 21st century, more and more jobs are moving towards high-tech and knowledge-based jobs, so it is very important for us, as we develop programs, to look at programs that are futuristic and provide careers that are needed in the 21st century. Education is the best investment you can offer to the younger generation. Of course, there are all kinds of competing desires and interests that young people are now interested in. Part of the challenge facing the university is to make education fun and to actually attract students to academic subjects and difficult subjects like engineering and medicine by making it a fun thing to do. Increasingly, we are putting more emphasis on hands-on experience and things that I would call experiential learning, where you do not just read textbooks, but you apply what you learn. We are using a lot of ways to adjust to different styles of learning. There are now more ways that students can spend their time. It is just as challenging for them to spend time on education. We try our best to retain our students and engage them in the campus. In addition to the academic programs, we have a very active, very vibrant campus life, where they can experience social activities, sports, and entertainment. So increasingly, university is transforming from a place where you just come and learn and leave, to a place where you can actually experience.