UAE universities have joined forces with education authorities to develop online degrees to help attract prospective students from around the globe.
The Ministry of Education and the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education formed the University Consortium for Quality Online Learning, partnering with nine universities as part of an ambitious digital drive.
American University in Dubai, American University of Sharjah, British University in Dubai, Khalifa University, New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE University, University of Dubai, University of Sharjah and Zayed University will participate in the initiative.
The initiative will help universities in the Emirates strengthen their online courses and make them accessible to students in the UAE and beyond.
The Covid-19 outbreak highlighted the potential of online learning to allow staff and students alike to work and study away from lecture halls.
The rise of distancing learning opens up the opportunity for top students all over the world to learn at UAE universities without leaving their home countries.
Dr Mohammed Al Mualla, undersecretary for Academic Affairs of Higher Education at the Ministry of Education, said the strategy would help universities create accredited online programmes by 2022.
Prof Abdullah Alshamsi, vice chancellor of the British University in Dubai, said that online learning would be a major boost to the education sector in the Emirates and would help build collaboration between local and international academics.
"The opportunities in this field are huge," said Prof Alshamsi.
"Students can connect from anywhere in the world.
"Also, academics will not be required to travel in person to share their knowledge, but they can do that remotely.
"The exchange and transfer of knowledge will be faster and easier than ever.”
Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth and president of Zayed University, also backed the initiative.
“This project will assist Zayed University and other higher education institutions in the UAE to develop high quality degree programmes that will be offered fully online to a regional and international audiences."
Charles Grim, vice provost for institutional research, assessment and academic affairs at New York University Abu Dhabi, said the university had the potential to offer some of the best online programmes in the region.
"This endeavour seems an excellent way to help us and all of the other participating universities to engage in online learning effectively, and much more efficiently than would be the case were we to move in this direction independently," said Mr Grim.
The universities will take part in capacity needs assessment to identify individual challenges and determine their strengths and needs for developing online courses.
UAE embraces digital age:
These assessments are scheduled to be completed in early 2021, after which each university will receive a report to guide its programme design.
The UAE has embraced a shift to digital education during the pandemic, with schools and universities continuing to offer remote learning opportunities months after welcoming back some pupils and students to in-person lessons.
Hamdan bin Mohammed Smart University teamed up with the Ministry of Education in March to provide free courses for teachers to bring them up to speed with the demands of online teaching.