x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Full steam ahead' for university chief

Head of Wollongong institution's local campus will be pushing on, despite his interim status

David Rome has returned to the role of interim president at the University of Wollongong Dubai.
David Rome has returned to the role of interim president at the University of Wollongong Dubai.

DUBAI // The interim president of the University of Wollongong Dubai says his role is not a simple case of holding the fort until January.

David Rome will hold the post until a new president is recruited for the spring term. Until then Mr Rome is determined to ensure the university, where classes started this week, stays on track.

"I've made it clear from the start I'm not here to warm the seat. It's full steam ahead," he said.

"Any initiatives we develop in the next little while I'll embrace and make it happen."

Mr Rome stood in as interim president at the university for four months in 2008 before the appointment of Prof Rob Whelan, who recently left the post after three years.

He also spent more than eight years as the vice president at the institution's home campus in Wollongong, in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Prof Whelan said although Mr Rome was not an academic, his expertise in administration and experience in Dubai make him a strong choice to manage the interim position at the campus, which was Dubai's first private university and, with 3,000 students, is one of its biggest.

Under plans drawn up by Prof Whelan last year, the university will launch master's degrees in international studies and media and communications in January, and expand bachelor's degrees in engineering.

Qadria Naji, a final-year marketing student, was a member of the student council until last term. She said she hoped the incoming president would address student concerns including a shortage of teaching staff - many teach four subjects - and of course options.

"The list of classes is somewhat dry," Ms Naji said. "We keep hoping there will be new teachers and new subjects added."

Five new teachers have started this term, joining more than 80 others.

Mr Rome was preparing for further courses, such as electrical and computer engineering, to start in January.

Meanwhile, the global search for his successor is down to the final stages.

The incoming academic will have a hard act to follow. In his short time at the helm, Prof Whelan led the university into a new era of research, introducing its first doctoral programmes.

"Rob Whelan was an academic of high standing," Mr Rome said. "He could bring good leadership and management but coupled with a strong research background, and that's what you need in a president of a university.

"So we're looking for another person who can maintain those high standards.

"I can fill in for a part but I don't have the extensive academic background that I think we need here."

mswan@thenational.ae