Editorial Team

Heriot-Watt University Dubai today successfully hosted the Future Skills Conference at Expo 2020 to explore how the University’s world-leading research is shaping education, catalysing industries and framing jobs of tomorrow in response to the changing workplace – through sustainability, mobility and opportunity. The University also unveiled a new global online education initiative called Heriot-Watt Online designed to open up higher education opportunities to hundreds of thousands of non-traditional students around the world.

Held at the UK Pavilion, the Future Skills Conference was graced by Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Director General at KHDA, as the guest of honour. The Conference brought together speakers from across the University’s three campuses – Edinburgh, Malaysia and Dubai along with industry thought leaders.

Commenting on the Future Skills Conference, Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General, Knowledge and Human Development Authority said, “The year of Expo reminds us all of the importance of working together to create a flourishing future. Our fast-changing world demands we learn new skills, that we learn them in new ways, and that we keep learning them throughout our lives. While we can’t always predict the future, we can be sure that our growth as individuals and as a society will depend on our resilience, our compassion and our ability to make wellbeing a priority. We’re thankful to our friends at Heriot-Watt for bringing the community together to ensure the future prosperity of students and of Dubai.”

Professor Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice Principal at Heriot-Watt University Dubai said, “The Future Skills Conference has truly showcased the commitment Heriot-Watt has towards the growth of education in the country and globally. We are grateful to the UAE leadership that has played a pivotal role in building the educational landscape here by welcoming foreign universities and helping us thrive here. Through this conference, our efforts to bring together speakers from academia, industry, and government along with students has resulted in a unique setting that provided a platform to discuss the current and forthcoming educational needs of individuals while also addressing what jobs of the future will look like. We are also very proud to be associated with Expo 2020, as our presence there further enhances our outreach plans and is serving as a springboard for us to showcase our research capabilities.”

Launch of Heriot-Watt Online

Heriot-Watt Online differs from other mass learning approaches by offering tailored courses that address the key issues and skill gaps identified by businesses and industry bodies. The initiative includes Masters’ courses in subjects like Digital Transformation, Data Analytics and Supply Chain Management and Logistics alongside undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships, works with businesses to co-create and co-deliver courses tailored to current and future talent needs.

With applied and work-based learning at its core, the new approach will enable the University to support organisations with a range of impactful workforce development needs. New courses coming in the future reflect the emphasis that many businesses are placing on the drive to net zero including Masters in Sustainability and Energy Transition.

Commenting on the launch, Dr Gillian Murray, Deputy Principal of Business and Enterprise at Heriot-Watt University said: “Our mission is to power the economy and transform lives by providing world-class relevant and flexible learning. The devastating impact of the pandemic has accelerated acceptance and understanding about the benefits of digital learning but also highlighted the urgent need for businesses to build a suitable talent pipeline who are trained for the future jobs market. The demographic of learners is changing and is unlikely to go back to the pre-pandemic landscape. Workplace skills are also changing rapidly, so both employers and employees must keep pace. Many people simply can’t take time out to study due to financial or personal circumstances. It’s essential that universities facilitate this shift in approach to education, continuing to cater for students who are leaving school but ensuring that adult learners can receive a world-class education at any age, anywhere in the world. We are breaking down the borders and barriers may people face when trying to reach their career goals by offering a flexible approach through Heriot-Watt Online.”

With the global workforce predicted to grow by 230 million people by 2030, the job market is rapidly changing with around 2 billion jobs predicted to change due to new technology, decarbonisation and new growth industries. A $8.5bn talent shortage is predicted by 2030.

Heriot-Watt University has a long history of delivering online education, having been a market-leader in the delivery of digital MBA courses across 160 countries for the past 20 years. Applying these learnings, Heriot-Watt Online will launch an additional 20 Masters courses over the next few years which are targeted towards emerging industries like Sustainable Futures, Energy Transition and Business Psychology.

Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor at Heriot-Watt University kicked off the Future Skills Conference with an opening speech showcasing the University’s vision for the future. Representatives from the UAE-UK Business Council were also present and had an insightful panel discussion around opportunities through which UAE and UK educational ties can be further strengthened and enhanced.

With future of education as the underlying theme, the Future Skills Conference explored some of the most pertinent issues and topics that have come up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – including student mobility, online learning, life-long learning opportunities and the role of digital learning, the way research and innovation is shaping the world of work and creating jobs needed for tomorrow.

World expos such as Expo 2020 are an opportunity for Heriot-Watt to promote its research, innovation, enterprise and thought leadership ideas, demonstrating how the University is using research to address and solve some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

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