Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research: Interview

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research

Interview: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan,

How do you assess efforts to raise post-secondary graduation rates among Emiratis? What is being done to increase female participation?

SHEIKH HAMDAN BIN MUBARAK AL NAHYAN: The first university in the UAE opened its doors in 1977 and there are now 106 institutes in the state, with just under 77,000 students enrolled in private schools and over 41,000 in state universities. Just over half of the student body is women. Students receive university education in accordance with the international standards required for their disciplines, and this will help reach the UAE’s Emiratisation goals. Our programmes emphasise the pillars of the UAE Vision 2021 for sustainable development in its three dimensions: social, economic and environmental.

As for the participation of women, the state has made significant progress in the UNESCO "Education for All" programme, which was established in the 1990s. In 2010 we renewed our commitment to achieving higher education for all by 2015, and leadership at all levels pays great attention to this issue. The opportunities available to women through higher education are evidenced by the number of Emirati women working in leadership positions in government ministries, on the Federal National Council and in the private sector.

What strategy is being used to align academic curricula with future labour demand? How do you see this demand evolving in terms of skills required?

SHEIKH HAMDAN: The Coordinating Council for Higher Education Institutions was formed following a 2012 study revealing a gap between the output of higher education institutions and the skills needed in the UAE labour market. Its aims include the coordination of work, programmes, plans and tasks across the institutions of higher education in the state, on the one hand, and on the other, in conjunction with the ministry, it encourages students to study in-demand disciplines.

A National Committee for Scholarships has also been established to coordinate with the scholarship authorities to ensure the scholarship system and scholarships available take into account strategies developed by the ministry that reflect the needs of the state’s labour market in key areas: medical specialties, tourism and hospitality, energy, the environment sector, and transport.

In addition to encouraging citizens to complete their studies and enrol in training programmes, the National Qualifications Authority (NQA) has developed a qualifications framework of 10 levels, so higher education institutions and employers can understand which skills are held by potential employees. This facilitates recruitment. The NQA is fully geared towards the launch of new services aiming to ensure that qualifications and awards offered by the state meet the needs of the UAE labour market. These services include the registration of vocational education and training providers guaranteed to deliver NQA quality-assured services; the establishment of industry-led committees to develop new qualifications and awards; and the national recognition of existing and reputable UAE and foreign awards, including those offered by well-respected international bodies like ACCA, Edexcel, and City & Guilds.

How important are international partnerships and foreign investment in higher education to the emirate’s efforts to diversify the economy?

SHEIKH HAMDAN: Investment opportunities in all areas of education are on the rise, especially those related to the green economy. The UAE is leading the green economy initiative regionally, with projects to drive the development of renewable energy, clean technology and green transport. So, the opportunities for innovation and scientific research are growing.

The state has attracted some of the most prestigious educational institutions from around the world to open branches in the UAE, such as INSEAD, New York University, Sorbonne and the University of Wollongong, among others. We also support scientific research projects based on innovation, with the provision and efficient management of scholarships for UAE citizens, who can then contribute to development of society.

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2015

Education chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2015

Cover of The Report: Abu Dhabi 2015

The Report

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