By Caline Malek
A Swedish delegation is visiting academic institutions across the UAE this week to build educational partnerships.
The board of directors of the Swedish Foundation for International Cooperation in Research and Higher Education (Stint), arrived on Sunday to meet officials from eight institutions.
These included NYU Abu Dhabi, Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research, the Masdar Institute, Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi and University of Sharjah.
“The most interesting point here is that UAE academic institutions are growing at a very fast pace in terms of their level of higher education,” said Olle Wästberg, chairman of Stint.
“It is probably one of the fastest-growing in the world so it’s very interesting.”
He was speaking between visits to NYU Abu Dhabi and Khalifa University on Monday.
Although the delegation was represented by a group of five Swedish universities, it is a national organisation that works with all universities across the country.
“At NYU Abu Dhabi, we discussed what we call a teacher’s sabbatical which involves sending teachers from Sweden to the UAE to learn more and widen their scope,” he said. “We discussed having that with them and that could happen as soon as this autumn.”
The delegation hopes to build a foundation for cooperation between local and Swedish universities and to offer a range of funding and scholarship programmes.
“We chose the UAE because it’s a country that’s going towards globalisation in terms of education, which makes it interesting to study,” Mr Wästberg said. “We are meeting local universities and imported universities that have established themselves here. It’s a crash course in internationalisation that you can see here.”
A potential outcome could see Swedish students study in the UAE as part of a scholarship programme. “Education for us is a primary goal but we’re also discussing programmes with scholarships with Swedes that we want to send here in order to learn more,” he said. “We’d like to have a sort of more regular cooperation between universities here and in Sweden and we can be a facilitator for that.”
The delegation has a remaining six institutions to visit across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah by Friday.
“We can see that there is a lot of development in higher education in the UAE and we know it’s very dynamic here and evolving very quickly,” said Andreas Gothenberg, director of Stint. “We think it’s interesting to look at these developments here as one kind of possible example where higher education might go in the future because it can renew itself with the international players.”
He said that traditionally, universities at home developed in a certain way that was not exposed to such a dynamic environment, where the curriculum could develop at an international level.
Swedish universities have recently struggled to attract foreign students due to the introduction of fees for non-Europeans, with enrolments dropping by 80 per cent, from 8,000 non-European students to 1,600. But Mr Gothenberg said that was not the cause of their visit to the UAE.
“We’re interested into getting even more international students to Sweden because it’s a benefit to us and to partner universities abroad.”
Visiting students and working teachers from Sweden could start arriving in the UAE as early as this autumn.
“There are many different opportunities,” he said. “But if we have programmes where students can do part of their studies in multiple environments, it’s something that’s very good for everyone involved.” (The National)