In accordance with the government's focus on education, degree-level learning received a major boost last week when the government announced a partnership with New York University (NYU) for the establishment of a satellite campus in the emirate.
NYU will be the second foreign university to create a satellite campus in the emirate after Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi (PSUAD) was established in May 2006.
The announcement was made last week by Martin Lipton, chair of NYU's board of trustees; John Sexton, president of NYU and Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the emirate's executive affairs authority. NYU has been looking to establish a presence in the Gulf region for several months and these ambitions were discussed internally for over a year. However, until recently, it was unclear which country would host the new campus.
As part of the agreement, the government of Abu Dhabi will provide the land, financing, construction and maintenance of the new campus, which is set to open in 2010. The administration of educational programmes will be overseen by NYU's faculty in New York, and a portion of the professors in Abu Dhabi will be on rotation from the home campus.
NYU Abu Dhabi will be the first liberal arts campus established abroad by a major US research university. Classes will be taught in English and aim to attract over 2,000 students from the Middle East, Europe, and South and Central Asia.
To help foster international partnerships and improve the educational landscape of the emirate, the government formed the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in September 2005. The ADEC is an independent body responsible for improving and developing educational institutions within Abu Dhabi.
As stated in the Policy Agenda 2007-2008, the government wishes to raise the quality of higher education in Abu Dhabi to meet international standards.
While addressing the United Nations, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), highlighted the partnership with Sorbonne University and the emirate's commitment to bringing the "experience of the world's most prestigious universities to the UAE."
In addition to the new deal with NYU and the already established PSUAD, which is wholly owned by the ADEC, the emirate has recently seen collaborations with other international institutions. INSEAD, a leading graduate business school with campuses in France and Singapore, opened its Abu Dhabi centre this year. The school has a strategic alliance with the US's Wharton School and has other research centres in Israel and India. The US-based Colorado School of Mines has an agreement to provide academic guidance to the Petroleum Institute, an engineering school financed by the National Oil Company and its international oil partners.
Foreign universities looking to enter the emirate are aiming to do more than meet the growing demand for higher education. They also hope to learn from the local environment.
"The evolving global dynamic will bring about the emergence of a set of world centres of intellectual, cultural and educational strength," said Sexton, commenting on the importance of cross-cultural understanding. He said he believes that the new partnership will allow NYU to work with local scholars and researchers and will "educate" NYU.
The PSUAD has also embraced the local culture and will now teach sharia (Islamic law) to enrolled law students. Graduates of the three-year course will be qualified to practise Islamic law in Abu Dhabi and France.