In 2017, the UK’s IPPR thinktank estimated that 44 percent of jobs could be lost to automation.

How can you ensure that you are adequately qualified for tomorrow’s competitive employment arena in such unprecedented times for the job market?

Dr. Yousef Al Assaf, President of RIT Dubai university, believes that tailoring education for the future is essential for providing a relevant education for the modern job market. “We are not going to give you a degree with courses and exams and then send you to go and find a job,” he says. “In this region, students can spend a year just looking for a job or looking for a connection to find a job. This is unfair and doesn’t help the students, the community, or the economy.”

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At RIT Dubai university, pupils cannot graduate until they spend at least six months working with a reputable international company. Students are encouraged to be industry-facing, and entrepreneurship and innovation skills are central to their education.

The UAE has already taken some measures to ensure that it is at the forefront of this employment revolution. Last month, the government launched its Think AI initiative. The initiative aims to accelerate the country’s adoption of AI – an industry estimated to reach $300 billion (Dh1.1 trillion) by 2026.

In 2016, the Dubai Future Accelerators program started. It aims to attract both local and international start-ups to the country, to boost innovation. The program is designed to help the private sector work with the government to create solutions for the future.

This drive to accelerate innovation is also present in the education sector. In May 2017, RIT Dubai university became a founding partner of the Dubai Smart City Accelerator. The partnership includes Smart Dubai, Dubai Chamber, Visa, and Orange. The project allows RIT students and alumni to proactively contribute to developing new business ventures and support Dubai’s transition into a smart city.

The university also has a unique Smart City master’s degree, accredited by the New York Education Department, the KHDA, and the Dubai Ministry of Education Government. Other courses are also structured to ensure that students are taught the latest skills. “For example, in electrical engineering, at the moment, we are focusing on robotics and artificial intelligence. Beyond that, we have data analytics because this is the current trend and the need for the future,” says Dr. Al Assaf. “Companies here don’t celebrate preparing students, and they expect students to be ready.”

Studying abroad

There’s a perception among many ex-pats that to achieve the very best standards in education, it’s necessary to travel abroad to study. The Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings 2019 ranked the US as the most popular choice for international students, chosen by 38 per cent of respondents as their preferred destination, followed by Canada and the UK. In comparison, the UAE garnered 4 per cent of international votes. Yet, Dr. Al Assaf believes it isn’t always necessary to study abroad to compete in a global market.

“Our mission as a university is that we would like to change the landscape of education in the region. We have many parents and many kids who would like to study in America and Europe because they think they will have more opportunities and learn more. We are doing this here in Dubai. Students will have the same quality of education, but it’s relevant to their future.”

Dr. Al Assaf describes RIT Dubai as a global university. Its main campus is the Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, founded in 1829, with additional RIT campuses in China, Kosovo, and Croatia. Each student that studies at RIT Dubai receives the same qualification as a student studying in New York. They also have the opportunity to study in any RIT campus or at one of the university’s 20 higher education partners.

New Dh200 million campus

In the next year, RIT will expand its ecosystem with a Dh200 million new campus sponsored by the Government of Dubai. The campus will be built on the principles of innovation, connectivity, and sustainability, and the students are closely involved in implementing these pillars.

“We will have a hub in the middle of the new campus called the Innovation Centre,” says Dr. Al Assaf.

“It will be open to everyone, including private and public entities. People can bring their challenges to our students, faculty, and community to come together and try to find solutions for Dubai.

RIT Dubai’s Innovation Centre will hopefully help the people of Dubai, the UAE, and the region find new solutions for the future.”