Intelligent CIO talks to Professor Mohamed Albaili, Vice Chancellor, UAE University, about a landmark MoU with Huawei, solving the cyberskills shortage, the evolving importance of Artificial Intelligence and incorporating AI and Machine Learning into all majors across the curriculum, as well as the university’s daily applications.
UAE University works with its industry partners, such as Huawei, to provide research solutions to the challenges facing the local, regional and international community.
Academic programmes at the UAE University are designed in partnership with employers, ensuring that a larger proportion of its graduates are employed.
Can you explain the details about the MoU you have signed with the Huawei and what it means to the university?
We have integrated our strategic partnership with Huawei by signing an agreement for establishing Huawei ICT Academy at our university, United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), and we are proud of the relationship with Huawei. We have been in touch with Huawei for the last two years, regarding collaborations in terms of training our students and also going for internships in their headquarters in China, as well as possible potential employment at Huawei for our graduates.
As a university, as an academic institution, we rely heavily on technology. We at the UAEU always like to stay on the edge in terms of the latest technology. We are incorporating the technological infrastructure in our academic programmes, as well as in our operations, so we have a very strong technology infrastructure
Within our agreement now with Huawei we will definitely leverage on the technology that Huawei has in order to strengthen our capabilities to run our university.
How far do you think programmes such as this one will go to solving the cyberskills gap?
Actually, we’re looking for solutions now to overcome most of the challenges that we are facing as an academic institution, especially in the era of AI, and also Machine Learning. It’s very important to incorporate them in our curriculum, as well as in our daily applications. So I think Huawei has the knowledge and expertise that we can benefit from and collaborate with in order to develop a joint solution for the challenges that we are facing in the university and in the academic sector.
How important is the role of technology in the education sector?
Technology is a powerful tool and it’s very important especially in the digital era, or the AI era now as we call it. I think that it will definitely have a great impact on facilitating the learning and teaching process, especially now we’re dealing with the new generation – the digital generation. Definitely technology is the most powerful tool in attracting and containing the attention of our students, to get them engaged and involved, and also excited about learning and being in an attractive environment to try to engage them in the learning process.
So there’s a strong demand from the students for these skills to be developed?
Absolutely. This is one of the major skills that we are focusing on. These are the 21st century skills. Technological skills are now very evident in terms of preparing students for the job market. For the job market technological skills are the number one skills that are needed so every student regardless of his or her major, should be capable of managing or using the technology, and to facilitate this engagement as well as for their future career development.
The first course is AI based. In terms of AI what sort of impact do you think it will have on society as a whole?
I think there will be a tremendous impact on society by infusing and implementing AI technology, whether that’s in the educational sector or in the social sector, there will be tremendous benefits that the university as well as the society will gain.
But the other challenge that we are facing is we have to prepare our national leaders for the future by preparing them or by teaching them the necessary skills to master AI technology so they can be the leaders of the future.
So perhaps the most important aspect of this is to provide future leaders with the relevant skills to lead?
I think IT skills are much needed in the job market. Without those skills I don’t think that our graduates can compete in the job market. So by providing them with the right skills they will have a better chance to embark on a career journey that will lead them to a successful future.
How important is it that a company such as Huawei is prepared to invest in the future of the university?
We are very proud that our partners Huawei will be investing in the university by training our students with AI skills as well as general technological skills through the ICT Academy that we will be establishing with them in our university.
The first course is going to be in AI. Do you know what other further courses there might be?
Now we are introducing AI in all our subjects, not only the IT subjects. We believe that there will be a masters degree in AI very soon. We will be offering a Master of Science and AI. We will also have another master in data analytics related to AI as a combined major with the College of Business and IT.
It’s part of our strategic direction to incorporate AI technologies and all in all of the majors that we offer.