In an Online Strategic Discussion Panel: Rabdan Academy Discusses the Future of Higher Education in the UAE in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In an Online Strategic Discussion Panel: Rabdan Academy Discusses the Future of Higher Education in the UAE in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Dr. Al Ayyan: Five tasks forces formed constituting 25 academic experts
  • Dr. Al Kaabi: 40 global trends define four potential scenarios for the future of higher education

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 29 June 2020:

In cooperation with Abu Dhabi School of Government (ADSG), Rabdan Academy, specialized in safety, security, defense, emergency readiness and crisis management, organized an online discussion panel under the title “Future Foresight of Higher Education in the UAE in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic”. Following the formation of five working groups made up of 25 academic experts, the session addressed the future foresight trends as per the scenario planning methodology issued by Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future(MOCAF). Experts evaluated over 40 global trends, as well as several major drivers to define the parameters of four potential scenarios for the future of higher education.

Commenting on the event, Dr. Faisal Al Ayyan, Vice President of Rabdan Academy, said: “Hosting strategic panel sessions to formulate methodology guidelines for the post-pandemic higher education sector reflects the Academy’s commitment to developing flexible strategic plans and meet global changes and their requirements. We are constantly working to attract the best local and international expertise to exchange views and constructive discussions in order to obtain optimal visualization of what the future of higher education in the country might be. The session witnessed interventions from experts from the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) together with a select group of international and Emirati experts working at the Academy.”

Speakers in the discussion panel included Jeffrey Sanders, Futures Research Expert from Finland; Dr. Faisal AlKaabi, Dean of Faculty of Resilience at Rabdan Academy; Dr. John Hatzadony, Assistant Professor and Chair of Homeland Security Program at Rabdan Academy; Dr. Amanda Davis, Chair of Policing and Business Continuity Management Programs, Assistant Jeffrey Sanders Professor, Police and Security science Program; Dr. Khaula AlKaabi, Chief Innovation Officer at UAE University; Dr. Susanna Karakhanyan, President of Higher Education Policy and Regulation Director, Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge; and Dr. Khameis Al Abdouli, Assistant Professor of Business Continuity and Crisis Management Program, at the Rabdan Academy.

Moderated by Dr. Shamma Al Naqbi, Program Chair – General Education and Foundation at Rabdan Academy, the session commenced with the keynote from Jeffrey Sanders, which focused on the overall strategic impact of COVID-19 on higher education institutions. “Providing a university setting that combines distance learning and traditional education plays a major role in providing students with a novel model of efficient communication and engagement with modern technologies,” said Sanders. Dr. Faisal Al Kaabi made a speech highlighting the issue of future foresight and higher education during and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, the workshop included several important topics, namely:  Future foresight & higher education, future drivers of higher education, potential scenarios & governance challenges of the higher education sector, and innovation & future of education in the UAE. In conclusion, most important proposals and recommendations were put forward to ensure a better future for education in light of the challenges emanating from the pandemic.

During his speech, Dr. Faisal AlKaabi focused on the importance of leading the future of education through harnessing the foundations of future foresight and strategic thinking, which requires identifying the future trends and drivers, as well as evaluating their impact and uncertainty to ensure optimum readiness for the future and its challenges. This, according to AlKaabi, would contribute to realizing the “Best Education” component as one of the main pivots of the UAE Centennial 2071 Strategy, especially that the UAE is preparing for the coming 50 years. “Therein lies the importance of this workshop, especially that it seeks to enhance readiness to address changes to the highest levels drawing on future visions and scenarios based on scientific studies and promising experiences that forge a clear view of the future of higher education and underpin the measures to be taken to keep abreast of the future of the education sector with all of its perspectives and challenges, particularly following the aftermath of the current pandemic,” added AlKaabi.

In the run-up to the workshop, more than 25 experts participated in implementing the five steps constituting the scenario planning methodology issued by the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs and the Future. Over 40 future trends were analyzed and evaluated, following which participants identified areas of priority and assessed them based on the potential impact and level of uncertainty. Eventually, experts established four future scenarios for the higher education sector in the UAE in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. On her part, Dr. Khaula AlKaabi analyzed the various innovations associated with each scenario and presented examples of the confirmed and potential innovations for each of the four scenarios in the areas of services, operations, legislation, and regulations. Furthermore, AlKaabi suggested the establishment of an innovative system for the academic alliance of higher education institutions to participate in many collaborative initiatives such as cooperation in offering joint scientific courses and professional development programs, enhancing communication and interaction between faculty members, exchanging experiences and best practices, and supporting joint scientific research for students and members of the faculty. “The Big Ten Academic Alliance (BTAA), bringing together more than 14 universities in the US, is a global example of such alliances,” concluded Dr. Khaula AlKaabi.

On the other side, Dr. Susanna Karakhanyan praised UAE’s higher education system as one of the fastest growing in the world. Mainly, because of the diversity of disciplines, ample opportunities, and the variety of its educational institutions management system and its privileged position on global competitiveness. Additionally, Karakhanyan mentioned studies confirming that 60% of students within the system have access to remote learning.

Dr. Hatzadony explained that the 19 areas highlighted by Dr. AlKaabi are seamlessly compatible with the four scenarios, and are also associated with the economic, social, political, environmental, and technologic drivers identified by the Rabdan Academy team.

 Dr. Khameis Al Abdouli wrapped up the session saying: “The outputs of our panel discussion were fruitful. I confirm our eagerness to exert more effort and share the latest technologies, ideas, research and strategic outputs with various sectors to foresee a better future for students in light of the successive challenges in a way that contributes to protecting the gains of our homeland.”