Sharjah's education institutions are building on their reputation and becoming internationally recognized centers of excellence.
2016 got off to a strong start with Sharjah hosting the International Education Show. It was the 12th edition of the show, and Sharjah was chosen as the host, as one of the fastest growing education markets in the world. There has been substantial investment in education in Sharjah, and today both men and women enjoy a 95% literacy rate, which is impressive considering this figure was 54% and 31%, respectively in 1975.
Reaching higher, the Emirate of Sharjah is investing tremendous resources into its tertiary education sector, aspiring to attract university students from all around the globe. The Emirate has worked hard to boost the offering of its academic institutions, all of which recognize the global ambitions of their students and thus offer internationally recognized qualifications. The American University of Sharjah (AUS) is one of the largest, and ranks seventh in the Arab region. To attract international students as well as local students with international ambitions, the university is licensed both in the UAE and the US.
The government’s ambition to create a knowledge-based economy has further driven the energies of its education sector, with universities working hard to furnish students with the qualifications and skills needed by the country’s industries. Like the AUS, other institutions are trying to attract students by ensuring that graduates can find employment at the end of their academic tenure. In interviews with TBY, both AUS and Skyline University College emphasized the close connection they have with the private sector, with the universities often tailoring its courses and curriculum to the needs of industry. “We are a homegrown university,” says Dr. Abitabh Upadhya, Dean of Skyline University College, adding that, “Business innovation is the jewel in the college’s cap, as is finance, marketing and strategic management.”
In line with the need for a knowledge-based economy, The University of Sharjah, founded in 1997 by HH Al Qasimi, is pushing its research capabilities. It has one of the highest enrollments in the region, and has gone from training 676 students when it opened to over 13,500. With 90 academic programs, it offers the highest number of accredited degrees in the UAE. The University has laid out a strategic plan to become an eminent research institution and a brand of excellence with a significant impact on the UAE and beyond.
The investments are paying off and most of the universities that spoke to TBY outlined their expansion plans as more students come through their doors. Chancellor Biörn Kjerfve of AUS told TBY how he raised funds for the university’s expansion plans for a 21,000sqm engineering and sciences building. “We have spent about three years planning and finding financing for this,” he said. “We are very thankful to His Highness for providing the financing for this major project.”
As well as catering to the masses, niche subjects and fields of expertise are growing. Studies in space sciences are another source of pride for the AUS. In fact, Sara Ameeri, the former head of a team of scientists on the Dubai Space Program and currently head of the UAE’s Science Council, graduated from AUS, and is one of the fourteen graduates who are part of the Mars 101 mission.
With a robust and diverse educational offering, Sharjah made clear at the International Education Show that it has the capacity to become an education hub. The government has well-supported educational initiatives, such as infrastructure and facilities. The multi-cultural student population is also a factor, and is seen to be further encouraging international collaborations with universities overseas.
There were numerous international universities at the show, with a strong presence from India. The International Education Show is held in partnership with the Great Indian Education Fair, the largest of its kind in India. New exhibitors to the event came from the UK, with the University of South Wales and Middlesex University attending.