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Doctoral students interact with experts to seek inputs for research topics

Tuesday, 8 February, 2011

70% of first batch of doctoral students at UOWD are Emiratis
The first-ever roundtable organized by doctoral students of University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) to obtain feedback on their research generated an overwhelming response from experts from the UAE industry and government sector.

The initiative, whose aim was to involve industry and community in providing feedback on the students' research, was conducted by first cohort of doctoral students who began their Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs at UOWD in November 2010.

The students interacted freely with the experts whose core message was to engage in applied research that is contextualized to local conditions and to select their research topic early in their doctoral journey. The event also discussed ways of motivating the industry to collaborate in order to make research locally relevant.

Prof. Ken Wilson, Director of National Research Foundation, stressed the need for a strong peer group, and urged the students not to loose sight of the question. "In applied research, you need to first identify the question that needs an answer, he added.

Participating in a group discussion, Ahmad Mohammed Al Mulla, Vice President, IT, Dubai Aluminium (DUBAL), lamented the lack of research culture in the UAE and added that the launch of doctoral programs by a private university would provided a much needed boost to applied research in the country.

Dr. David Dombkins, Program Manager, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) PPP Program, commented: "It is imperative to choose issues that are fundamental to the UAE. The key to effective research is to contextualize it to local conditions.

Prof. Rob Whelan, President of UOWD, remarked that the launch of doctoral program was a landmark not only in the history of UOWD but also for the higher education system in the UAE. He identified three elements that would help research activity thrive: accessibility to data, identification of strategic research direction at the very start and building fruitful relationships between students, faculty and industry/government sectors.

Prof. Mohamed Khalifa, Vice President Academic, UOWD, commented: "The objective of the Roundtable was to enhance interaction between students and the community as part of a four-way partnership between students, academic staff, industry and government. This interaction will contribute to enhancing relevance and applicability of research to the needs of the UAE. We plan to organise such events on a regular basis to open communication channels with all stakeholders.

Nearly 70 per cent of the first cohort of doctoral students are Emiratis, most of whom are holding key positions in the public sector. They are keen to do their doctorate here in the UAE because they can research a locally relevant topic while keeping their job, and without the need to go abroad for research studies.

Youssra Kaddoura, a doctoral student who has chosen the topic 'Cross-Cultural Effect on Performance' said: "The Roundtable enabled us to understand that the academic world cannot be isolated from the real world. The university's assurance to forge close links with the industry was also encouraging because this will enable us to gain access to information and thus make our thesis more relevant and practical.

Ahmed Saeed Al Nayeli, Manager at Tawazun, an Offset Group company, said: "It is great to do a doctoral program while working full time in the UAE. This interaction with industry and government officials will assist me in fine-tuning my research topic with a focus on local needs.

Among other representatives from the industry and government sector who attended the event were Alexander Williams, Director, Strategy and Policy Division, Dubai SME; Khalifa Rabba, AVP, Head of Market Operations, Dubai Financial Market; Sabiha Alyouha, head of Marketing and Events, DTCM; Mouna Anohi, IT section, Dubai Municipality and representatives from Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

UOWD is the first Ministry-accredited private university in the UAE to offer the DBA and PhD Doctoral Programs. The university works with business, government and industry to ensure that it offers relevant education today and in the future. The Roundtable was coordinated by Prof. Brian Lehaney, Director of Postgraduate Research, UOWD.