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Education Tourism Is the Way Ahead


Education Tourism Is the Way Ahead

  Dr Eesa Mohammed Al Bastaki, President, University of Dubai, highlighted the importance of education tourism and how cities are shaping choices made by international students, during an interview with KhaleejTimes. Dubai – Transnational students are big business for education providers. And turning Dubai into a regional education hub has been made possible with the setting-up of top international universities in the emirate. During a chat with Khaleej Times, Dr Eesa Mohammed Al Bastaki, President, University of Dubai, highlighted the importance of education tourism and how cities are shaping choices made by international students. Excerpts: Tell us about the concept of educational tourism? The normal definition of educational tourism is focused on the development of the educational institution to make it a tourist destination. However, our definition of educational tourism involves the development of the education system as a whole to create a global tourist destination. The difference between the two definitions is that in educational destination tourism, tourists visit the training or research centre of globally renowned universities. However, education tourism driven by the education system attracts students, trainees and other tourists, as well. So it is a much broader and more comprehensive concept of educational tourism. What are the requirements of educational tourism? The most important requirement for the development of educational tourism is the quality of learning. Universities must provide new majors that serve the global demand and should not confine themselves to the local market requirements. It is also important to provide distinct centres at universities such as ëspace science centresí and ënanotechnology centresí. Are these requirements available in UAE universities? In the UAE, almost 10 per cent of universities provide quality learning opportunities, but only four per cent of them have global recognition in quality. Several universities have centres of research and training, but we require high profile centres similar to the space centres in the US, for example. It is important to make available a space science centre in the UAE in the light of the countryís upcoming projects announced in this area. What is the readiness of the infrastructure in the UAE for the establishment of educational tourism? The UAE is fully prepared on infrastructure requirements in terms of technology, tourism, trade and other sectors with services available in all areas to attract educational tourism. At present, the University of Dubai and a number of other universities attract students from outside the UAE, but it is important that all educational institutions must seek to provide the requirements for the growth of educational tourism. What are the steps taken by the University of Dubai in this context? University of Dubai has succeeded in offering quality learning opportunities and has also received global recognitions. We are currently focused on the development of specialised centres such as ëIBM Centreí, ëSmart Cities Centreí and ëInnovation and Entrepreneurship Centreí. We also plan to open a Faculty of Engineering, which will provide new technological innovations. Which are the most important countries in the world in educational tourism sector and why? The United States is the most important country in this area because of the huge support it provides to quality learning and scientific research. There are at least 500 American universities offering very high quality learning opportunities as well as centres serving key global sectors. The UK comes second place, followed by Australia. France, Japan and Germany too have excelled in this field, but language is an obstacle before these countries to achieve advanced levels of growth. What are the major challenges facing the educational tourism sector in the UAE? There is no doubt that the provision of high quality of learning and global recognitions are major challenges, along with the high cost involved in the establishment of research centres, which can only be afforded by public universities. Considering the challenge in this area for private universities, it is important to provide them with government support. What is the economic return of educational tourism? Educational tourism provides substantial income to the countries, because the students coming to the educational destinations have high spending rate in all areas. As educational tourism supports the tourism sector in general, and today the UAE having become a global tourist destination and focus of international attention, the UAE must invest in enhancing its worldwide reputation by promoting educational tourism. This is particularly important considering that we have more than 100 universities, and with such huge numbers it is possible to develop this sector further. What is the role of government in the development of educational tourism? It is important that the government supports educational institutions as much as possible, not only financially but also in terms of legislation to ensure the active role of educational institutions in the development of educational tourism, and also to attract more investments in this area. How is work progressing in the development of University of Dubaiís new campus? More than 70 per cent of the new campus in Dubai Academic City has been completed, and the official opening will be in September. The university will add some new programmes and majors, especially in the College of Business Administration. The university will intensify awareness and promotional campaigns to attract more students to the new campus.