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Rear Admiral James Anthony Morse


Tackling future challenges

President, Rabdan Academy


Rear Admiral James Anthony Morse was appointed as the President of Rabdan Academy, Abu Dhabi, in August 2016. Prior to this, he had a successful and rewarding 34-year-long career in the British Royal Navy. He joined the Royal Navy in 1982, serving in a spectrum of ships, from patrol craft to aircraft carrier, and commanded four vessels. He held a number of key appointments ashore, including as the assistant to the First Sea Lord and the MoD’s director force development. As a Rear Admiral, he was commandant of the Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) and director general of the UK Defence Academy. He holds a BSc in mechanical engineering from Bristol University and an MA in international relations from King’s College London.

Rabdan Academy is working to provide more flexible pathways to education so that it can contribute to a highly skilled workforce that is prepared for future challenges.

How is Rabdan placed in the education ecosystem and what factors shape the design of your curriculum?
Rabdan Academy is a government entity and its founding decree allows considerable flexibility for it to work across the Abu Dhabi, federal, private, and international markets, under the direction of a board of trustees comprising senior leaders from our major stakeholders. The academy is now over five years old, with major stakeholders in safety, security, defense, emergency management, and crisis response (SSDEC), such as the Armed Forces GHQ, Abu Dhabi Police, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, and the National Security Council, amongst others. The academy acts as a catalyst to build and develop interoperability between relevant entities, based upon education and training programs, which aim to make the SSDEC sector more effective. The academy is also working with stakeholders to identify common standards and doctrine, and how these can be aligned for organizational interoperability. This should result in better coordination of training, which improves operational performance whilst resulting in clear financial benefits. The added benefit of coherence in the education and training system, such as agreed national standards, is that this enables nationally recognized skills certification, which ultimately creates a more employable and portable workforce. In addition to academic programs, the academy has also been making significant progress in the development and delivery of short courses and vocational training over the past few years. Moreover, we are working to provide more flexible pathways to education, including recognition of prior learning, suitable for future requirements and in alignment with relevant regulations, so that we can contribute to a highly skilled workforce that is prepared for future challenges. As the academy grows, we are also increasingly looking internationally to develop partnerships with top universities.

How does technology affect curriculum design and how can technology be a utility to build transferable skills?
Technology has a significant impact on curriculum design, as the SSDEC sector is moving fast across the spectrum of new scientific developments. In particular, everyone is talking about AI. With such fast technological developments, it is not easy for organizations to predict what skillsets they will need from employees six years from now, so this presents a significant challenge when designing a curriculum. However, I would contend that fundamental human skills, such as critical thinking and leadership, are going to be just as important, if not more, as AI enters the workplace. Our graduates will need to be able to do the things that AI cannot or should not do, such as showing curiosity, creativity and innovation, ethical thinking, and other human abilities that are hard to program into computers.

What are your expectations and outlook for the year ahead?
We held our first graduation ceremony in October 2018, so we are proud that our graduates will be using the skills they have learned at Rabdan Academy to make the UAE a safer and more secure place. We will be launching our new master’s program in policing and security leadership. We are also seeking to expand internationally, building on our reputation for maintaining the highest standards and seeking the best possible educational outcomes for our students. We will be offering a wider range of vocational training courses to our stakeholders and also developing the centers of excellence project to enhance interoperability and effective, efficient training regimes. We are in the process of developing plans for a new simulation center, which we hope to have approved and building started in 2019. Moreover, we will continue to build our research capabilities. Rabdan Academy’s reputation will continue to grow throughout 2019, and our alumni will be recognized for their achievement and contribution toward a more resilient nation.



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