RAS AL KHAIMAH // The first batch of students of sustainability to attend a year-long course at the Ras Al Khaimah campus of a Swiss university, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, will arrive next year.
They will work alongside local businesses to improve infrastructure and environmental practices in the emirate.
Since launching in the emirate last year, EPFL has held only short, four and five-day professional development courses, taught by visiting lecturers from Switzerland.
Next year's students will be in the second year of their master's degrees at the Swiss campus, studying energy management.
With the permanent campus on hold until it can be made sustainable, the doctorate students will work from a temporary base, focusing on transport, water, alternative energy and urban planning.
The head of campus, Dr Franco Vigliotti, believes that while there is still no local enrolment, the university is making a great contribution to the region.
"Before us and Masdar, there was very little in the way of graduate research in this area," he said.
So far, more than 100 Lausanne-based students have visited RAK on short study visits.
Twelve doctorate projects are focused on RAK, with students working between the two campuses.
One looks to improve the emirate's power grids, using the infrastructure of RAK as a test base.
The new system being developed by EPFL's researchers will be based on a computer chip that aims to manage supply and demand faster than any other set-up.
The university also works with local companies.
"We are working on concrete problems these companies are facing every day and transforming these into research projects for our students," said Dr Vigliotti. "Everything we do here must have a strong relevance to the region. We want the students to interact with industries."
"Our priority has been to put the content in place first," he said.
"It's a more sustainable approach. We're also looking to work with other institutions to have joint research projects, where we can learn from each other."
The next step, he said, would be to persuade students at local universities to consider postgraduate studies at EPFL.
Dr Zubair Hanslot, director of the University of Bolton's RAK campus, said EPFL's plans were a bold step for the emirate.
"They have a great research reputation and a reputation for great work," he added.
"If they are to do these big projects, it will complement the educational offerings in RAK and make it more attractive as an educational destination."