Universities faced major upheaval and uncertainty during the pandemic, UAE University chancellor Zaki Nusseibeh said on Sunday.
Mr Nusseibeh, in his convocation speech, reflected on the losses and the lessons learnt during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Minister of State and chancellor spoke to members of faculty and staff on Sunday to welcome them back for the new academic year.
Through the speech, Mr Nusseibeh encouraged people to remain united in the face of challenges.
He said universities were a symbol of unity as they functioned as a community.
“The past 18 months have challenged this sense of unity and community,” said Mr Nusseibeh.
“There have been costs, there have been losses and hard lessons learnt. Many of us need time to recover and recoup our strength and spirits.
“It has been my pride and pleasure to witness staff, faculty, and students’ successful efforts to overcome the challenges to the community presented to us by our forced absence from campus.
“But I have seen that you do have the strength and spirit of unity, the unity that is the symbolic purpose of a university."
During the past year, the majority of students at the university studied remotely. Most students have returned for in-person learning this year.
UAE University was established by Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, in 1976.
Close to 13,000 Emirati and international students are enrolled there.
"Our approach is cautious, but we are certain of our ability to protect the wellbeing of all as we begin to enjoy each other’s company once again," said Mr Nusseibeh in the convocation speech.
"It is through coming together that we discover what we have to learn from each other."
Mr Nusseibeh said Expo 2020 Dubai would bring together nations for dialogue, learning and creating relationships and networks.
In October 2020, Mr Nusseibeh was appointed as UAE University’s chancellor.
He shared a message for the education community through his speech.
"My message to you on this opening of the academic year, is to enjoy the opportunities you have to come together on campus," said Mr Nusseibeh.
"They are treasured, important moments. I request that you maintain your efforts to sustain our community during those times when we must be absent from each other once more.
"I urge you to respect the measures and procedures in place to ensure our safety. By doing this you increase the likelihood that we will all be able to join together face-to-face much sooner."