Randa Bessiso, Director for the Middle East, University of Manchester

On establishing a supportive environment for higher education

How has Dubai evolved into a competitive destination for higher education students?

RANDA BESSISO: Dubai is now a benchmark city, not just for the region, but for other education centres globally, and the emirate’s higher education segment is continuing to expand and mature. Capacity is increasing due to Dubai’s ability to attract high-quality institutions from around the world, as well as offer a diversified range of programme options and learning formats for students. Supported by its education free zone, Dubai is attracting global talent and education providers. A growing number of branch campuses of overseas universities are providing more choice to local and regional students at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. However, this trend is less about programme offerings and more about flexibility, personalisation and delivery formats.

Dubai – and the UAE as a whole – has a global profile that helps attract talented individuals to live, work and study here. The growing number of international universities and institutes in Dubai, coupled with the high standard of education and living, will continue to draw students to the country. The key is to maintain high-quality teaching and learning experiences, and to support graduates as they embark on their careers. Dubai is committed to this, and we remain very confident that the higher education segment will continue to flourish not just in terms of student numbers but in quality as well.         
 
In what ways does Dubai attract students to study, work and live in the city?

BESSISO: Dubai is a global destination that attracts talent from around the world. The Global Talent Competitiveness Index 2019, in which the UAE and Dubai both performed well, shows that cities rather than countries are developing stronger roles as talent hubs and will be crucial to reshaping the global talent landscape. This is because cities have greater flexibility in adapting to new trends and patterns, thus making them especially attractive for entrepreneurial talent. We see this very clearly in Dubai. There is no doubt that recent developments in the UAE – including the introduction of new visa regulations – will help make studying in the UAE even more appealing to talented young people. The aim is to encourage these students to remain in the country to work and contribute to the knowledge society here. At the institutional level, support is offered to educational providers that are developing their campuses as incubators of entrepreneurship and innovation, and that are expanding their capabilities as international research centres.
 
Through what mediums is the higher education segment encouraging students to undertake local employment?

BESSISO: There is no doubt that the regional economy presents unique career opportunities as it undergoes rapid economic diversification and digital transformation. Dubai is no exception, especially as it gears up to host Expo 2020. There is an increasing need to align business programmes with in-demand workplace skills in order to improve and sustain the employability of students. This vital aspect is being supported by new student visa regulations, improved guidance on securing internships, classifying educational campuses as free zones, focusing on entrepreneurship and incubating innovative start-ups.
 
How is the higher education segment aligning with Dubai’s aim to encourage technological innovation and creative leadership?

BESSISO: Dubai is one of the world’s most dynamic cities, and the speed of change and transformation through creativity and innovation creates exciting opportunities; however, it also presents education providers with the challenge of keeping pace. In higher education particularly, curricula need to be updated to reflect these rapid technological, social and workplace changes. The internet of things, artificial intelligence and blockchain are all part of the increasing emphasis on technology in education – especially within the business disciplines. While industry relevance is an important component of business programmes, there is no doubt that soft skills, such as leadership and creativity, are also increasingly valued by businesses. These skills are easily transferable across industries and are not easily automated.
 

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