“The first thing is to make sure that students are choosing the right programme for them,” he said. “We engage in a dialogue with applicants, to see if they chose that particular programme for the right reasons.”
In the later career advisory phase, “we prioritise short internships, employer engagement, and the interaction with the world of work, so students can see what they are looking for,” he said. “We already have companies providing internships to our students in banking, production, and services.”
The university plans to support entrepreneurship, as well.
A Changing Labour Market
Sadler said academic programmes at the University of Birmingham Dubai take into account the needs of a changing labour market.
Most of the university’s graduate students already have jobs and enrol part-time to learn new skills, he said.
The university also seeks to provide undergraduates with skills that have emerged during the last 10 to 20 years like digital awareness, and understanding how to access and make sense of news and information from a variety of sources.
“There is a lot of information out there, unlike when I was a student,” Sadler said. “We need to help them to distinguish between valid information and what’s just noise.”
Students also need soft skills like learning “to work in an interculturally sensitive manner,” he said, something “not always easily acquired.”
Regionally Relevant Research
In research, Sadler said the university was focusing on topics of regional interest, including disability issues and water desalination.
“Those are regionally relevant research that can speak to the local needs, not just in Dubai, but in the wider region. Those are our ambitions. We will not be doing practical physics or molecular chemistry that requires tens or hundreds of researchers working across universities in the U.K. and worldwide. We will be doing stuff that has a meaningful regional resonance.”
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Sadler also wants to increase social science and humanities learning.
Many universities have “a very strong career-oriented focus and very narrow interpretation of career focus,” he said. “There is an assumption that degrees in medical training, engineering, computer science, business are the only way to the world of work. But soft skills are just as much sought after by employers.”
He noted that research money tends to flow more to projects of immediate practical applications and less to issues of longer-term value.
He added: “Personally, I think the region suffers from small funding of research in humanities and social sciences.”