Zayed University (ZU) inaugurated its new Abu Dhabi campus recently, just in time for the start of the new academic year. The opening marked a historic shift from its moderately-sized city campus on Delma Street to the new one in Khalifa City.
The 80-hectare campus took just under two years to construct at a cost of over Dh30 billion and can accommodate approximately 7,000 students. This now makes it the UAE's second largest federal university campus.
The new campus has enough available land to add more buildings to accommodate 10,000 students in the future.
The university has a large campus in Dubai International Academic City and a smaller one in Dubai Knowledge Village.
Sixty per cent growth
The UAE University campus in Al Ain remains the country's largest federal campus in terms of structure and space.
The new development came about as a direct result of overcrowding at the Abu Dhabi city campus. The congestion resulted from a 60 per cent three-year growth, said Thomas Cochran, campus director of ZU, Abu Dhabi.
Ahead of the new campus, the university spent a year in discussion about how to come up with a new vision for Zayed University in Abu Dhabi.
"We wanted to continue to build and improve the undergraduate experience and we were serious about building connections with the community through outreach programmes and applied research," said Cochran.
"After looking at the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan we are advancing towards those objectives, which is captured in this physical facility."
Several designs were submitted for consideration and Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, chose the model, which has become one of the most iconic and notable buildings in Abu Dhabi.
He said there has been a dramatic growth in the education of UAE nationals, and the university, which primarily served women now serves Emirati men. "We are slowly opening our doors to international students and other students from the Gulf — we expect the number of expatriates residing in Abu Dhabi to grow over the years.
The faculty is also diverse and they come from 40 countries around the world.
The new facility's most distinctive feature is its roof, which is internally referred to as the "undulating halo," said Cochran. The new development consists of three main sections made up of 28 buildings, including residential halls; a convention centre; a shopping arcade; an auditorium; a sports complex and a children's education centre with child-care facilities.
The campus is split into sections for boys and girls with a wall separating the two. Cochran said a large part of the new campus' concept was to serve as a community resource for the UAE's capital.
He said the new structure was a dramatic statement as it can be seen when one drives or flies into Abu Dhabi. "It's quite a stunning architectural masterpiece but it is also very functional."
In addition to the halo, there is a substantial convention centre, which has theatre space that can house 1,000 people.
The centre also has a library, with electronic resources and other materials that one would expect in the 21st century, said Cochran.