x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Masdar research degree to let UAE students keep their day jobs

From next month, students will be able to obtain research degrees at the Masdar Institute while keeping their day jobs in industry.

Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of the Masdar Institute, says the students don’t have to leave their job to pursue their degree.
Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, President of the Masdar Institute, says the students don’t have to leave their job to pursue their degree.

ABU DHABI // From next month, students will be able to obtain research degrees at the Masdar Institute while keeping their day jobs in industry.

They will be studying a master's degree aimed at professionals who would otherwise be unable to further their studies.

The first students will be from Emirates Aluminium (Emal) and Mubadala's aerospace arm Strata, but the institute hopes other industries will eventually follow.

Each student will research an area of interest to their employer in fields such as environmental engineering and computer science.

The course will take about two years to complete, with employers expected to let students work reduced hours in that time, and to give them study leave to complete assignments and research work.

"These people don't have to leave their job and it's an area of interest to their company," said Dr Fred Moavenzadeh, the president of the university.

"They will do their research in the workplace but being overseen by our academics, and don't have to sacrifice their salary.

"This way Masdar doesn't have to pay a stipend [as it does for all of its students] and the industry pays the tuition." Tuition costs US$2,500 (Dh9,182) a year.

The university is working closely with Emal and Strata on six research projects. It is hoped the new course will strengthen those links and give the institute professional insights.

"Students who are practising professionals bring an entirely different perspective and dimension to the classroom and laboratory," said Dr Robert Baldwin, who will run the course.

"Real-world experiences … will enrich the Masdar Institute's educational programmes and the industry-focused theses will similarly enrich both the faculty and students who are engaged in this project."

Only a handful of companies, such as the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, give employees study leave. Most require any study to be done in their employees' own time and at their own cost - which puts many off.

Some courses, such as Zayed University's planned master's in education last year, have been scrapped before launch after failing to attract enough students.

Dr Isaac Cherian, student councillor at the Higher Colleges of Technology across Al Gharbia, said the Masdar Institute course would be a welcome opportunity.

Many undergraduates at Dr Cherian's HCT campus work mornings and study in the afternoon, but Al Gharbia has no way of doing that on a master's course. There is also no sponsorship for working students.

"In most companies there are restrictions regarding continuing education, so if a company said they would promote this there are many people who would love this opportunity," he said.

"Many people want to do a master's degree but there are no opportunities out here still and they don't want to leave their jobs or family."

Dr Kathy O'Sullivan, head of English at the Canadian University in Dubai, said the increasing number of evening and weekend courses at private universities reflect the growing demand.

At CUD, all master's of business administration courses run at the weekend. But the cost keeps many away.

"There are scholarships but these can't be used to fund everyone," Dr O'Sullivan said.

"Universities throughout the Gulf are going to have to think about this carefully, targeting the working population."

mswan@thenational.ae