Westford University College deploys higher level technology to enhance learning experience. Excerpts from an interview with CEO Firoz Thairinil
How is your university contributing to the UAE’s higher education in line with government’s Vision 2021 to realise a ‘First-rate Education System’?
It is an admirable thought process of our leaders in UAE, education is the key foundation for the development of any society and the economy. We have taken many steps to increase the pace of transformation of the education among which deployment of higher level technology to enhance the learning experience, pragmatic assessment methodology, flipped learning pedagogy, and industry immersion are few initiatives we have successfully implemented. This is our priority now and will also remain our priority for future.
What challenges and opportunities did you witness moving from physical to online classes during the Covid-19 pandemic? How is technology and digitisation influencing higher education?
Indeed, it was a cake walk for us. Since our inception a decade ago, going online was our priority, so we have invested heavily on the development of online platform and digitalisation of the contents, which came handy for us in this challenging situation. We had system ready and all our faculties had many years of experience in delivering higher education using the online platform.
How does UAE ranking system fare against other world ranking systems? What is your opinion on increasing diversity – students and subjects – in the nation’s education sector?
Domestic ranking system always focus on the domestic trends and factors. It may be different when you compare it to the international ranking system, though both follow multifaceted dimensions, methodology and evaluation. In my opinion, the domestic ranking may be more relevant in the context of UAE as its compares the institutions on domestic factors, which will be more realistic and beneficial for students to take a decision.
The UAE has a specific advantage of bringing diversity in terms of students, the diversified population of the country helps to bring diversified student population to the colleges that students get varied perspectives, culture and a more inclusive experience. It clearly stands as an advantage of the UAE, as currently Westford University College homes the students from over 115 countries. It is almost impossible for many reputed large institutions in other parts of the world to achieve. The colleges must utilise this advantage towards the benefit of the student. We always ensure not to miss any such opportunity and we believe learning has no limitation.
In my opinion, the subject diversity is still not there to the desired level, the universities and colleges must think bringing more diversified course portfolios, which indeed needs more attention.
Please explain some of the futuristic educational trends developing in the UAE
The good news is that the UAE is getting more accepted as an education destination for the students, especially from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. I could see that many of the colleges in the UAE are able to take advantage by promoting the UAE as the cost-effective quality educational destination.
Westford has been witnessing almost 50 per cent growth in last year on international student enquiry, especially from North African countries and India, which is a clear sign of acceptability of UAE as reliable education destination.
In your opinion, how adept is the UAE education system to fulfil the demands related to career opportunities?
The higher education institutions in the UAE show extremely low resilience when it comes to changes compare to large established institutions around the world. I feel that it’s more due to the culture of the country; we quickly adapt to the changes and always welcome new technology. This is reflected in the education sector also which in my opinion will really help colleges develop the necessary skills in the students which may come handy with future career opportunities.
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