“Because of the very speedy growth in our industries, we are in demand of executive training for our people”. Saad’s task is to analyze markets and find suitable institutions to develop talents in Dubai. He considers the Netherlands as quite an attractive partner, because many Dutch universities are among the 100 best universities in the THES ranking. “I see opportunities, because the quality of Dutch higher education is very good.” With the Nuffic, he tries to reach a memorandum of understanding. At the same time, he is talking to universities. “We are spreading seeds, but nothing has yet materialized. The challenge for us is that most education is in Dutch.”
In the past decades, Dubai has developed into a hub of technology and tourism. “We are part of the United Arabic Emirates, but we don’t have much oil. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum decided that we should focus on knowledge economy: 25% of the GDP should come from knowledge economy. However, Dubai does not have a tradition on this point. The first university in Dubai was opened only 15 years ago, and started admitting foreign students only last year – still a very small percentage. Therefore, Dubai, a city in which more than 90% of the population is expat, tries to bring in campuses from abroad.
Saad sees opportunities for Dutch universities. “In Dubai, we already have 16 branch campuses of foreign universities”. Paris-Sorbonne is among them, as well as several universities from the UK, the USA and Australia. “All universities are starting to go beyond their national borders. Knowledge has been internationalized. It should not be kept in one location. If you are known outside your borders, people will come back. Dutch universities should consider that.”