University of Birmingham campus opens in Dubai

Many of the design elements of the UK campus have been duplicated in Dubai


Professor Sir David Eastwood, University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor, unveils the plaque at the opening of the Dubai campus of The University of Birmingham.

(Photo: Reem Mohammed/ The National)

Reporter: Rpberta Pennington
Section: NA
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The University of Birmingham campus that officially opened in Dubai International Academic City Tuesday will boost the emirate’s standing in the global higher education market, the head of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority said.

“It will put Dubai on the map as a destination for higher education now,” Dr Abdulla Al Karam, KHDA director general, said following a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the university’s provisional campus in Block 2 of the DIAC.

The emirate already hosts 31 higher education institutions, including 27 international branch campuses from 12 countries, according to the latest figures published by the KHDA from the 2016-2017 academic year. Over the past six years, higher education enrolment in Dubai’s private universities and colleges has grown at a rate of about 9.6 per cent annually.

“People will specifically be coming to study at the university and this is very much good news for us because Dubai is diversifying its tourism sector, and the target is to have even more numbers of tourists, but different types of tourists,” said Dr Al Karam. “So, higher education tourism is on the radar of the government. I think having a strong university like Birmingham definitely will help us to reach our target faster.”

The Dubai campus is located in an existing 2,500 square metre, two-storey building that underwent a £2.5 million renovation to suit the university’s needs until 2020, when construction of the permanent campus is expected to be completed.

Many of the design elements of the UK campus have been duplicated in Dubai, including the mint green and space grey colour schemes, furniture and study areas, said Trevor Payne, Birmingham’s director of estates.


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“We wanted to turn it into something that was very similar to the spaces we have in Birmingham, which is a very historic, red-brick building,” said Mr Payne. “It was a lot to do.”

During its first year, most of the university’s operations will take place on the first floor of the campus, where a traditional lecture hall, computer and engineering labs, seminar and tutorial rooms have been arranged. The main level is composed of soft seating areas and study spaces.

Officials expect to welcome about 300 students during the first academic year, which begins in September. As the student population grows, additional study spaces will open on the main floor.

Officials gathered for the ceremonial launch emphasized that the Dubai location is not a “branch,” campus of the 118-year-old red-brick institution in Birmingham recognized as the 84th best university in the world, according to the latest QS Global World Ranking.

“What we have been trying to do with the building, as with everything, is to give the students who are here in the Dubai campus the same experience as the students in Birmingham,” said University of Birmingham principal and vice-chancellor Prof Sir David Eastwood. “We have been very clear about that throughout. This is the University of Birmingham Dubai, so same experience, same quality, same programs, same degrees.”

The entry requirements and tuition fees are also equal at both campuses.

Students who graduate from the Dubai campus will be issued a degree certificate that reads, “University of Birmingham,” but the official transcript will identify the school by its local name, University of Birmingham Dubai.

“Because we are not working with an education investment company -- this is owned, managed and operated by the University of Birmingham -- that is a key differentiator,” said Ben Bailey, director of campus operations. “This is not a branch campus. This is the University of Birmingham who has chosen to develop a campus in Dubai.”