Bold move: merger of three UAE universities

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Bold move: merger of three UAE universities

United Arab Emirates – On 13 October the Abu Dhabi Executive Council headed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, and chairman of the Council, passed a motion to merge Khalifa University, Masdar Institute, and the Petroleum Institute.

Abu Dhabi Government stated: “The move is aimed at marshalling resources more efficiently while building on the universities’ achievements and setting the unified institute among the world’s best.”

All three institutions are well regarded in the UAE. Each institution has a separate campus with good to excellent research facilities. Khalifa University, founded in 2007, is ranked as the top university in the UAE and hosts a total of 1875 students, of which 225 are in graduate and doctorial programmes, and has 182 faculty /academic staff.

Masdar Institute of Technology, also founded in 2007, is a high quality graduate school with 456 students and 91 faculties. The Institute offers master’s and doctoral programmes in engineering disciplines with a focus on advanced energy and sustainable technologies.

The Petroleum Institute was founded in 2001 and is UAE’s largest in overall undergraduate and graduate enrolment with 2177 students, of which 340 are graduate students.

Even though such a merger unprecedented in the UAE, this is a growing trend worldwide by federal, state, and local governments. It has occurred in recent years in China, The United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, Norway, and Finland as well in the United States.

The European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture Higher Education and International Affairs followed university mergers in Europe and has gained historical knowledge and insight in best practices.

The European Commission’s recommendations include: 1) develop a shared compelling vision for the future; 2) ensure leadership to drive the process and provide sufficient resources; 3) consult student and staff who will be affected by the proposal. Prioritise students’ needs and interests; 4) communicate sound objectives with focus on improvements in quality and student experience. 5) develop a realistic and detailed time frame; 6) make a realistic estimate of the capital and transition costs including opportunity costs. Dedicate adequate resources, focusing on the affordability; 7) monitor the progress and evaluate the outcomes of the reform process at institutional level in a transparent manner.

The merger is a bold move by the Abu Dhabi government. The initial reaction among the public, faculty, staff and students and the schools is positive and optimistic. The merger will create a university with increased research capabilities and maintain and attract additional top faculty in engineering and biosciences. However, a full plan and timeline for the implementation of the merger have not been released. Few specifics have been published and a number of current faculty and students are unsure of how it will affect them.

With input from Dean Hoke, Co-Founder of Edu Alliance