ABU DHABI // For more than two decades as Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak led a concerted effort to make university and college available to all Emiratis.
Sheikh Nahyan, who was moved in Tuesday's Cabinet reshuffle to become Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development, continuously pushed for higher standards.
He established the Commission for Academic Accreditation, the watchdog that inspects and accredits universities that fall within the ministry's oversight.
And it was Sheikh Nahyan who last year insisted entry requirements of the three federal institutions - Zayed University, the Higher Colleges of Technology and UAE University - were all on par.
Those who did not make the grade were sent to an institute now called the Abu Dhabi Centre for Vocational Education and Training, which grew from the capital to the country.
More than a decade ago, Sheikh Nahyan pushed for English instruction in all universities and colleges. Despite opposition, he was determined to make young nationals competitive on the global stage.
Dr Mark Drummond, provost at HCT, said the move was crucial.
"Sheikh Nahyan had the vision and determination to switch instruction to English language to foster international capabilities and global competitiveness for UAE citizens," Dr Drummond said.
"There is always strong opposition to such a move in a non-English language country."
Each year, Sheikh Nahyan has set goals and challenges for the federal institutions he heads, from Emiratisation to raising standards and seeking international accreditation and a place in world rankings.
"Sheikh Nahyan was able to create an atmosphere of high expectations for students, academics and staff," said Dr Drummond.
"He was always quick to acknowledge success while at the same time creating an atmosphere of fairness and sternness, with no tolerance for bad behaviour or laxity."
He was keen to develop leaders such as Dr Howard Reed, the head of Dubai Women's College for more than 20 years, and persuaded Dr Larry Wilson to return as provost of Zayed University.
"Nahyan was a visible leader," said Dr Drummond.
"He was the one setting the expectations and keeping watch over outcomes, always vigilant."