x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Long-term educational plan 'will make UAE an intellectual capital'

The UAE will be one of the intellectual capitals of the 21st century thanks to the rapid growth in higher education, a university president has predicted. Prof Edward Guiliano, the president of the New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), said the "impressive vision" for higher education in Abu Dhabi and Dubai was considering the needs of the country for the next century rather than just the short term.

NYIT opened a branch in Abu Dhabi in 2005 and last year became the first UAE branch campus of an American university to obtain a licence from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. "Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the two together, will be an idea capital for this century," said Prof Guiliano. "In terms of education, they will become places where people will want to come and study and, for research universities, a place where you can work with quality minds.

"The co-operation and research potential, both in terms of jobs and research opportunities will be attractive." He said Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, recognised human capital was "the country's greatest resource". "There's a pretty impressive vision of higher education here. He's thinking in terms of 2050 or 2108." Prof Guiliano said Abu Dhabi had shown a commitment to become a leading idea capital by attracting prestigious universities. As well as NYIT, the UAE capital also has a branch of the Paris-Sorbonne, while New York University will open here in 2010.

The higher education sector is also growing rapidly in Dubai, with many overseas institutions opening branches in the emirate's free zones. NYIT was founded in 1955 and has more than 15,000 students at its main campuses in Manhattan and on Long Island. The Abu Dhabi campus offers bachelor's and master's degree courses in subjects such as business, engineering, interior design, computer science and fine arts.

Prof Guiliano hopes to see the student body grow from the current 300 to between 1,500 and 2,000. NYIT also has branches in Canada, Jordan and Bahrain, and offers online degree programmes and degrees in China. The aim of these overseas operations is to turn NYIT into a "global university". "These will be a new class in the 21st century," said Prof Guiliano. "There could be five or 10 or 50 in the whole world and we're at the leading edge of that."

Prof Guiliano, who has a PhD in 19th century British literature, insisted academic standards in branch campuses were as high as those in New York. Faculty are vetted by headquarters and students must meet the same requirements because they are admitted to NYIT as a whole, not just one campus. He also said overseas campuses were not there simply to generate revenue for the main operation. "We've not taken a penny out of this country," he said. "We've only brought it in."

Although the main school would not be able to sustain the Abu Dhabi branch were it to run at a loss, profits are not on the agenda. "Anyone who's thinking of making money by opening up a campus abroad has no experience of doing it," he said. While praising the efforts of authorities to expand higher education, Prof Guiliano said regulatory issues restricted the university's ability to launch new courses here. "The Government has to figure out a way to ensure reasonable standards," Prof Guiliano said.

"Sometimes they do that more aggressively than they need to because it inhibits growth." dbardsley@thenational.ae