x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

New UAE University provost announced

Top UAE national academic is given post after 20 years at institution, in a move colleagues say will inspire students and faculty members.

AL AIN // One of the top Emirati academics, Mohamed Baniyas, has been named the provost of UAE University.

The promotion, which will take effect on June 3, caps a 20-year career at the university where he has risen through the ranks from assistant professor and most recently the dean of medicine.

In his new role, Professor Baniyas will be the head of academic affairs.

UAEU has the highest proportion of Emirati academics - about a third - of any in the country. The other federal universities have between 5 and 10 per cent.

Prof Baniyas will be the third Emirati to hold the post. Academics were quick to welcome the move, saying he would be an inspiration for other UAE nationals in an area desperately short of local candidates.

Dr Hassan Galadari, an assistant professor of medicine, has known Prof Baniyas since the late 1990s.

"He's an inspirational figure … for the students, for the academics," Dr Galadari said. "They can see an Emirati faculty member who's been made provost and it's a success story.

"He's been very supportive on my academic journey and I'm so happy for him. He's moved from assistant professor to professor in a comparatively short time. It makes me want to work as hard or harder just to emulate his path."

The move was announced in an email to staff yesterday from the vice chancellor, Dr Abdulla Al Khanbashi.

"I believe Dr Mohamed is the individual best prepared to assume this important leadership position in the university," Dr Al Khanbashi wrote.

"His deep understanding of the issues and challenges currently facing the university, and his extensive experience as both a faculty member and senior administrator, will allow him to successfully lead the academic team and become a valuable addition to the vice chancellor's senior executive cabinet."

Prof Baniyas became a full professor in 2006. He has held a variety of roles since joining in 1991, including vice dean of medicine, director of graduate studies and associate dean for admissions.

He earned his PhD in pharmacology and therapeutics from the University of Wales. He is a fellow of the American College of Forensic Examiners and the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, and has served as an adviser for the World Health Organisation on drug safety.

Dr Al Khanbashi said the appointment was very exciting for Emiratis as "it shows that those who work hard and develop themselves will progress through the ranks of the university. Many deans are Emiratis who've been with the university a long time."

Dr Maryam Al Marashda, the dean of students, is among those Emiritis. She said Prof Baniyas was the best choice for continuity.

"He's worked closely with Rory [Hume, the departing provost] and he was vice provost for medical science, so he had another post right under Rory and he can carry on what Rory started," Dr Al Marashda said.

"His making that jump is very good for us. It will help promote medicine and the academic practices of medicine."

She said Prof Baniyas knew the issues and challenges ahead.

"I'm sure the students will be happy to know someone from within is becoming their provost," Dr Al Marashda said.

Prof Hume announced in February that he would not be renewing his four-year contract, and will shortly move to the Qatar Foundation as its director of education, training and development.

He said the choice of his successsor was a very exciting one for the university.

"He's very experienced and extremely well qualified," Prof Hume said.

He praised his successor's record of managing "one of the most complex, challenging and highly ranked sections of the university.

"It's an extremely useful attribute to be Emirati, to know the society and culture intimately. There's a large group of Emirati faculty and he will find it easy to understand and relate to them, which is definitely an advantage as well."

Prof Baniyas was unavailable for comment after yesterday's announcement.

mswan@thenational.ae