The University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) celebrated the 20th anniversary of its establishment in the UAE with two hundred guests, at a gala dinner held in the Majlis Al Salam Ballroom at Mina A’ Salam, Madinat Jumeirah.
The occasion was graced by HH Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, who was Guest of Honour at the commemorative event.
The dinner was hosted by UOWD President, Professor Trevor Spedding, and attended by a number of distinguished guests, including His Excellency Pablo Kang, Australian Ambassador to the UAE and Qatar; Ms Jillian Broadbent AO, University of Wollongong Chancellor; Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor; and Dr James Langridge, University Fellow and chief architect of UOWD.
In his opening speech, HH Sheikh Nahyan expressed his congratulations for the University’s contribution to the UAE in the past 20 years: “You have provided sound education in academic disciplines that are vital to our country. Our higher education system has benefitted from your dynamic activities in the UAE. And you have successfully communicated a sense of Australian culture and strengthened the bond between our two countries.”
Going on to recognise the immense diversity that characterises UOWD, HH Sheikh Nahyan said, “To the everlasting credit of the University of Wollongong in Dubai, you have recognised and embraced that universal quality and created an academic community that respects diversity of opinion. Your wisdom lays a foundation for civility and peace in our global society.’’
Sheikh Nahyan hailed the university’s unparalleled multicultural environment and bold vision to go into unchartered territory by launching the UAE’s first foreign campus at a time when no such institutions existed in the Gulf.
“I enthusiastically commend your academic accomplishment. But with even more passion, I thank you for helping to make the world safe for diversity.”
The gala event was the centre-piece of UOWD’s year-long celebrations to mark the institution’s 20th anniversary in Dubai. As the oldest foreign university in the UAE, UOWD is the first such institution to reach this momentous milestone in the country’s private higher education arena. The event attracted guests from business and government organisations across the Emirates, who joined UOWD alumni and staff in commemorating this landmark achievement.
Speaking at the event, Professor Spedding recounted the history of UOWD, from its early days as The Institute for Australian Studies, with just eight students, occupying one and a half floors of a commercial building on the Dubai – Sharjah border, to its current position, hosting over 4,000 students at the heart of Dubai Knowledge Village.
HE Pablo Kang paid tribute to the University’s major contribution to Australian education and bilateral relations with the UAE. Now arguably Australia’s most successful off-shore higher education facility, UOWD became the first foreign university to receive a licence from the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research allowing the institution to provide accredited courses for Emirati Government Departments, which has become an integral part of its operation.
Guest speaker at the event, Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, said he was proud that the Emirati Government officials viewed UOWD as a preferred institution for providing professional development courses for its staff, with employees from a wide range of public sector agencies having completed postgraduate degrees at the University.
The event also saw the launch of a commemorative book, chronicling UOWD’s journey from 1993 – 2013. The contribution of Dr James Langridge, UOWD’s ‘founding father’ and special guest at the event, aptly summed up the university’s ethos: “From the beginning we were determined to be givers, not takers – to make a major contribution to the development of the UAE society and economy.”
Professor Wellings concluded by reaffirming the commitment to build upon the University’s strong reputation for teaching and research excellence in the years to come.