Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 4 June 2020

UAE universities make strides on the global stage

Developing world-class institutions is a prerequisite for retaining homegrown talent
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, visits United Arab Emirates University. Courtesy: Ministry of Presidential Affairs 

September is a month of new beginnings for pupils who are getting on with their classes, and it is an especially significant moment for twelfth graders, as this is the time when many of them start contemplating their options for university. For many UAE residents this might mean leaving the country soon to pursue their studies abroad. But our local universities are becoming an increasingly appealing option for many seeking quality education.

The UAE’s flagship educational institutions have been rising up the rankings of the world’s universities in the past few years. Since 2016 the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain has climbed steadily up the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and is now rated as the nation’s top institution. Placed in the 301-350 bracket out of 1,400 universities across 92 countries and founded in 1976, UAEU is also ranked 70th among the world’s young universities and 49th in all of Asia.

Perhaps most encouragingly for a higher education system that is increasingly seen as a destination not only for UAE residents and citizens but also for students from around the region, UAEU is now rated fifth in the rankings for the Middle East and North Africa, placing it ahead of the American University of Beirut and closing the gap on other distinguished institutions, such as Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University.

Developing world-class universities such as UAEU is a vital prerequisite for attracting and retaining foreign and homegrown talent that will help to transform the UAE. This is also an encouraging sign that the nation’s mission to transform itself into a knowledge economy is well on track. But such reputations are not built overnight; they reflect years of dedication.

The rankings are an amalgamation of data of which perhaps the most important is the volume of research an institution has had published in international peer-reviewed journals and the number of times that research has been cited by other researchers. Over the years, UAEU has steadily and impressively improved its score on both counts.

Developing world-class universities such as UAEU is a vital prerequisite for attracting and retaining foreign and homegrown talent that will help to transform the UAE

Successful universities also promote their own countries. The Times Higher Education rankings, compulsory reading for millions of prospective students around the world, attribute the success of UAEU to “its exceptional staff, students and alumni, underpinned by modern curricula, visionary research projects, and an outstanding network of international collaborations”.

Quality higher education does not come cheap but scholarships are increasingly being used to attract outstanding students who might not be able to afford full tuition. This is part of the UAE’s national strategy to create a new generation of well-qualified professionals capable of shepherding the nation’s future development. The UAE’s first medical school, the College of Medicine and Health Sciences at Khalifa University of Science and Technology in Abu Dhabi, is going even further, by offering full scholarships to well qualified students of all nationalities. This can only help to increase the UAE’s potential as a global knowledge hub and offer everyone a chance at a quality education. Such initiatives should be more widely adopted.

Universities, and the graduates they produce, are the linchpin of any modern economy. How they rank on the world stage is also a barometer of national progress and, judging by the outstanding performance of the staff and students at UAEU, Khalifa University and others, the UAE is progressing admirably.

Updated: September 12, 2019 05:19 PM