Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi: Ahead of the curve

The Vice-Chancellor of Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi shares her views on the impact of COVID-19 on education and how Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi has dealt with the pandemic consequences with its preparedness and well-planned strategy

Did the pandemic reshape the educational model? How did international universities overcome the challenges raised by the pandemic?

Many would think that the pandemic has completely revamped educational models for the future, which I personally disagree with. We are indeed facing an unexpected and – exceptional situation that required a prompt reaction necessitating us to rethink and reorganize classes and to try and adapt by bringing new solutions and using technology to execute online classes. However, at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, we were thinking of embedding online teaching in our courses even before the pandemic. It was already a part of our strategic plan and there were discussions about how to increase the courses delivered online in comparison to face-to-face courses and how to include new technologies and digital tools to support and enhance our teaching methodology. As a result, we were prepared – to go for online courses quickly.

I think that online classes were already meant to be part of the educational model in the future and the pandemic just made this happen at a very fast pace. In addition, all students and faculty now can have access or even host online seminars and conferences from any part of the world using online tools, which will facilitate the exchange of knowledge. The challenge remains with regards to the teaching style used in the Bachelor programmes as I believe that – physical classes will remain and maybe only part of the courses might stay online. Finally, following the travelling ban, many students chose to study in their home countries rather than travelling abroad to gain knowledge, therefore advancing and providing the best education will be the responsibility and the highest priority of all international universities.

How does Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi prepare its students for the new job market requirements?

The education system in Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi offers not only academic programmes that are relevant to the international and local job market, but also equips students with the right tools to construct their own future to become specialists in their professional fields and responsible citizens of the world.

Our students begin their adult lives in an extraordinarily changing and complex world. This world requires skilled professionals, even highly skilled in technology, engineering and business etc. But it also requires young people capable of adapting to new situations of improvising, of imagining new answers to challenges that seemed unimaginable the day before. The coronavirus pandemic is a perfect illustration of this. An openness to the humanities makes it possible to place these developments in the history of humanity, to provide students with intellectual tools that enable them to take a critical distance and to establish a hierarchy of what is important and what is less important.

In addition, we have a dedicated Career Center that aims to help students at all levels of academic study gain professional skills and develop career readiness.

From your point of view, Do you think educational advancement will be driven mainly by technology in the near future?

Technology is a very broad terminology. However, digital technology might support the existing educational system but will not replace physical classes. Students should be educated on how to use digital technology in a way that supports their studies to begin with. For example, digital technology has made sources available to everyone, however educational institutions’ role is to teach students how to identify legitimate sources which will allow them to produce authentic research that can help in the advancement of their countries.