The UAE's higher education system should focus more on research for better economic development, according to a survey .
Conducted by the British University in Dubai (BUiD), the survey questioned different nationalities living in the UAE on the education system here. The survey revealed 98 per cent of people believe the UAE's higher education system should focus more on research for better economic development as students receiving research-based education adopt an in-depth approach to learning involving critical inquiry and expert analysis. And this enables them to gain key skills needed for the current and future work environment.
The survey, conducted at events including Getex 2009 and in key institutions such as the Ministry of Education, Zayed University and Knowledge Village, received more than 2,000 respondents – 50 per cent of whom were in mid-career job levels and 35 per cent held higher degrees.
Talking about what can be done to improve the education system of the UAE further, Martin Prince, Registrar, BUiD, told Emirates Business: "To develop a more focused educational system, it is important to encourage various players in the education sector to work more closely. Education should involve students, employers, the wider public and government agencies apart from universities.
"There have been positive moves towards closer collaboration within and between these groups but there is room for more advancement in certain areas. When these groups truly and readily collaborate, we can quickly reach the point where the important longer-term perspective in higher education can be realised for the best interests of Dubai's development as a knowledge economy.
"The current economic situation has reinforced short-term thinking in students and employers. Government entities and universities, in particular, need to encourage students to look at the 'bigger picture' and the longer-term perspective. This calls for the inclusion of research-based education so as to ensure the problems of today are tackled, and tomorrow's challenges are anticipated.
"Also, if you manage to establish the right forum for government, employers, students and civil society to talk to one another, it will encourage employers, in particular, to look at the genuine employability skills they will need going forward, which must include leadership, enterprise, creativity and general sustainability."
Majority of respondents believe research-based study is critical in the education and business sectors (19 and 16 per cent respectively), followed by medicine and health and the social sciences (15 per cent and 13 per cent respectively) and engineering (11 per cent). And 57 per cent of those surveyed were planning to pursue higher studies, including taking doctorates.
"The survey results show students and professionals are looking to further develop key research skills that can be applied to all business sectors. Individuals who carry such research-related skills and practices will benefit not only in their future career paths, but also in their contribution to Dubai's knowledge economy and the nation's wider society.
Research-based higher education is an effective way to gain an in-depth understanding of a certain sector, and also utilise skills that are crucial for economic and social development. At BUiD, we lay strong emphasis on research as our aim is to make leaders out of our students and offer them the highest standards in higher education," said Prince.
The survey reinforces the importance of academic research as a crucial driver for innovation and progress. National and regional development requires a foundation of theoretical understanding and the testing of basic knowledge so that it can be constructively applied to the present and the future.