Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi's AI university pushes back start date to January 2021

The decision was made to protect the health and well-being of students and staff

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - October 16, 2019: The launch of Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial intelligence. Wednesday the 16th of October 2019. Masdar City, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The world's first dedicated artificial intelligence university in Abu Dhabi has pushed back its start date for its inaugural class to January 2021.

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) was set to welcome its first batch of students in August, but the academic year has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State and chairman of the Board of Trustees said the decision was made to protect the "health and well-being" of students and staff.

"The university is eager and ready to welcome our first cohort of students from around the world, however, given the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the decision to start the academic year in 2021 has been made in the best interests of the prospective students, faculty, and staff," he said.

Construction on the campus, located in Masdar City in the capital, is due to be complete in the coming weeks.

Once open, it will offer Master of Science (MSc) and PhD-level programmes to interested students on a full scholarship, which includes a monthly allowance, health insurance, and accommodation.

Launched in October 2019, the university has garnered global interest and has received more than 1,200 applications from more than 80 countries.

All of those who applied have been informed of the change and the university admissions office said it would begin to send out additional acceptance offers soon.

In a letter sent out to applicants, Professor Sir Michael Brady, interim president of MBZUAI, said the global containment measures related to Covid-19 made it “difficult to ensure” that every admitted student would be able to join the Masdar City campus in August 2020.

However, he expressed his excitement at welcoming all students in the New Year to explore the “full potential of AI together".

Students will also take up internships at some of the world’s leading global and local technology companies during their time on campus.

During a video conference on Wednesday, the board also discussed future plans for the university including faculty and leadership positions and potential employment opportunities for graduating students.