Posted on Monday, July 4, 2011
The Gulf countries are located in the area surrounding the Persian Gulf. They form a part of the subcontinent known as the Middle East, to distinguish from the countries in the far east of Asia like Japan, China and Taiwan.
The Gulf countries are attracting worldwide attention with their strong economic growth. Three of the worlds six nations with the highest number of millionaires were in the Gulf region, a new report has revealed. According to Boston Consulting Groups Global Wealth report, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were placed at the fourth, fifth and sixth spots in the list.
However, the traditional oil monarchies are now keen to shed their old image and instead be known as knowledge economies. To fulfil this desire, many of the Gulf countries are investing in ambitious education projects, mostly in partnership with Western institutions, which have had years of experience in building up a knowledge base. The Western institutions have responded to the call as they feel the region offers limitless educational and research opportunities.
The latest to make inroads in the Gulf region is Swiss institute EPFL. The new campus will be based at Ras Al Khaimah and the first research and educational programmes are already in place. “EPFL Middle East is happening,” says campus dean Franco Vigliotti, adding, “We have outlined the first four scientific projects, hired staff and moved into temporary facilities.” Among the most advanced scientific projects for the new campus is the development of a large wind tunnel for research into the fields of atmospheric boundary layers, wind energy, air quality and structural wind engineering. The laboratories in EPFL Middle East, funded by Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), will have mirror laboratories working on the same themes with complementary scientific topics in EPFL Lausanne.
The Gulf countries also feel that besides their natural resources of oil and gas, they need to develop on their human capital. Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, vice-president of education, Qatar Foundation, says, “Education seems to be the way forward to become a part of the international community. It will also help in developing human capital. Due to lack of options, our students would go overseas to study. We want to stop that brain-drain and bring international education to our country.”
Dubai has developed a knowledge village called International Academic City, and there are currently over 30 academic institutions including those from the US, Australia, India, Pakistan, Iran, France, Russia, UK and catering to 15,000 students, offering programmes in engineering, computer science, finance, media, fashion, design, biotechnology, environmental studies, child development and quality and business management, from one year to four years duration.
While explaining the reason behind opening a campus in Dubai, Nitish Jain, president, SP Jain Centre of Management, says, “When it comes to management education, it is important to have an international exposure. According to Jain, countries like Dubai give special incentives to foreign institutes to set up campuses. Middle East is a good option for students from India as it is nearer home and of lesser cost,” he adds.
Abu Dhabi, capital of United Arab Emirates (UAE), has invited institutions such as New York University (NYU) to set up a campus. Ron Robin, senior vice provost, NYU Abu Dhabi, says, “A university of the future is unhinged from its geographical location and made up of multiple sites doing different aspects of one large research.”
EPFL Middle East will offer three continuing education classes starting in October 2010. These executive education courses are aimed for professionals based in the region and from both private and business sectors. The three proposed courses span subjects from information security and urban transportation systems to renewable energies.
Saudi Arabia on its part has pronounced its commitment towards building a knowledge economy by establishing the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Explaining the significance of KAUST for Saudi Arabia and its vision for the world, Ali Ibrahim Al Naimi, chairman, board of trustees, KAUST, and minister of petroleum and mineral resources, Saudi Arabia, says, “The KAUST global research and education network supports diverse talent both on its campus and at other premier universities and research institutions through collaborative research agreements, grants and student scholarship programmes. By doing so this university envisages to engage some of the best minds in the world to leverage the diversified and rich natural resources of this country to find sustainable and innovative solutions to some of the most pressing socio-economic problems of the world that include shortage of food, water and energy.”
(With inputs from Surbhi Bhatia and Proyashi Barua)
The following countries make up the Middle Eastern region
Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates, Yemen.
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