In a class of its own

Danielle Green
Danielle Green

During Dubai Week in China, Professor Ammar Kaka, Vice Principal of Heriot-Watt University’s Dubai campus, told Vision why growing numbers of Chinese students have their sights set on finishing their education in the emirate 

Q: What is the level of interest among Chinese students in studying at Heriot-Watt’s Dubai campus?

A: I had a meeting with one particular university in China recently, Tianjin Chengjian, and it was amazing how keen the students were to know more about our Dubai campus.

Q:  What courses are popular with Chinese students studying at Heriot-Watt’s Dubai campus?

A: Engineering and construction-related courses are very popular, as is architectural engineering. In fact we will also be offering architecture starting this September at our branch campus in Dubai. And we have been offering civil engineering for a number of years now, which is another popular course.

Q: Does this reflect the fact that so many Chinese construction firms operate in Dubai?

A: Absolutely. Chinese companies tend to employ Chinese staff, and we have a number of students who work for big construction firms who are studying for part-time Masters courses with us. For example, we offer construction project-management post-graduate programmes in the evening, meaning those students can attend classes when they finish work. We have about 20 Chinese students currently doing Masters degrees at our Dubai campus.

‘In Dubai you can choose what degree you want and what education system you want – whether it’s American, Australian, British, Indian or Russian’

Professor Ammar Kaka, Vice Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Q: What else attracts them to Dubai?

A: We are a British university offering them a British education. But by studying here they learn about Middle Eastern culture, which gives them a tremendous advantage because later on they return to China and get jobs with companies that want to conduct business in the Middle East.

Q: How important is Dubai Week in China for Heriot-Watt in terms of attracting more Chinese students?

A: Vey important. At the moment we have 100 nationalities in our campuses, with Chinese students a relatively small proportion of the whole. If we can develop that market we’ll be very happy. I was really pleased to see that KHDA [Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority] is one of the event partners here. They are working hard to develop the Chinese market for education.

Q: What might surprise Chinese visitors to this event in terms of Dubai’s offering?

A: Actually, the education story is probably one of the surprises. Dubai is known worldwide for tourism, construction, and development. But I don’t think that its offering in the sphere of education is as well known. What people may not be aware of is the amount of work that has taken place over the last ten years in terms of the number of overseas campuses that have opened in Dubai. There are more than 30 branch campuses in the emirate. In Dubai you can choose what degree you want and what education system you want – whether it’s American, Australian, British, Indian or Russian. And all the campuses are in close proximity, which means the student community gets to meet fellow students from other universities, creating a very collaborative environment.