ABU DHABI // Zayed University must aggressively seek out more Emirati staff, its chancellor said yesterday at the opening of the new Dh3.7 billion campus.
Emiratis can make unique and valuable contributions, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan said, and the institution needed to "provide them with the opportunities for their success".
Last year only four of the university's 374 academics were Emirati.
At UAE University, also a federal institution, 26 per cent of academic staff are Emirati.
Sheikh Nahyan told Zayed University (ZU) staff yesterday: "I'm counting on you to provide new energy and enthusiasm, fresh and innovative ideas about teaching and learning, and research activity that will accelerate even faster our progress towards achieving our vision of becoming an internationally recognised premier university."
The first 4,000 or so students arrive on Sunday at the new 6,000-capacity campus in Khalifa City after its move from cramped facilities in Abu Dhabi city centre.
The campus, its design inspired by desert sand dunes, is fitted out with facilities including laboratories, television and radio production studios, and gyms.
About 125 new staff - including about 63 academics - will be split between campuses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Nahyan's emphasis on the importance of Emirati staff was echoed by his vice-chancellor, Dr Sulaiman Al Jassim.
"We are developing careful plans for attracting and retaining national workers [both academic and non academic]," said Dr Jassim. "We will be asking every dean, director and manager to demonstrate their commitment to the hiring, development and engagment of nationals in their work areas."
The Higher Colleges of Technology, the largest federal institution, is also undergoing a process of Emiratisation, seeking more nationals in both teaching and administrative roles.
Sheikh Nahyan, who is also Minister for Higher Education and Scientific Research, said the ZU campus's move had been a "monumental task".
There are still some small wrinkles to be ironed out. It lacks land-line telephones and wireless internet, some of the roads around it are unfinished and there are no signs to the campus from the main roads.
That, said the returning provost, Dr Larry Wilson, is inevitable on such a big new site.
Like Sheikh Nahyan, Dr Wilson wants his academics to do more research - which, ideally, would mean hiring more of them.
"Every provost will always say he wants more," he said. "It's enough to teach the classes but if we had more, they would have more time to do research.
"In time, I want us to be a resource that business and government use as consultants, instead of always having to bring in consultants from elsewhere."
Many facilities at the Abu Dhabi campus, which was funded mainly by the Abu Dhabi government entity Mubadala and Abu Dhabi Education Council, will eventually be available to the community. Among them are a 45-unit shopping mall - which is still being finished - the US Congress-inspired library and the sports facilities, which include a full-sized swimming pool and an Olympic-sized basketball court.
"This campus opens up a lot of interaction with the community," said Dr Wilson.
Dr Drew Gardner, associate professor of biology, hopes the new campus's facilities will enable him to expand the university's science capacity.
"This will be an amazing improvement from the last campus, which was a converted school, so we had only three labs. Now we have 30 or 35," said D Gardner, who has been at the institution for 10 years. "Zayed University is very weak in science, so I hope to be able to use these labs and see science expanded."
The campus director, Dr Tom Cochran, said there was a positive mood among staff as the campus prepared to open on Sunday.
"There was a little concern at first that as it was so big, there would be a sense of isolation between the different departments," he said.
"But I don't think that will be the case. It's very open and accessible and we will continue to have a lot of interaction and engagement."