Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Greetings from the UAE

Over the next few days I intend to write a detailed blog about my first trip overseas for CQUniversity. My reasons for this are many and varied. I want colleagues to understand what I do when I am travelling overseas for the University. It is very easy to see these trips as junkets with senior staff giving themselves an excuse for an all expenses paid holiday. I know I used to think this when I was a lecturer killing myself to get ready for a new term or when I was up to my eyes in marking! So, I want to set out exactly what goes on during one of my trips. I want people to have the information they need to make judgements on the value of this activity. It is up to you to judge – junket or valuable University activity. I also want colleagues to see if there any opportunities to get involved with this fascinating part of the world through my visit.

I do hope to show that there is a lot of difference between a work trip and a holiday. That is not to say that work trips are not enjoyable. I know that I am very privileged to be able to travel and see parts of the world that I would never get a chance to – unless I was in this line of work. And of course there are fun parts of trips!

There are a number of downsides to this kind of travel. You are away from family – and you miss valued “weekend time” with them. It is also hard to stay on top of emails and what is going on back at base.

I am writing this entry from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday at about 10.30pm local time. It has been a busy start to the trip. I left Rockhampton late on Saturday afternoon and arrived in Dubai at 5am local time (11am Queensland time) on Sunday morning. I was met by Dr Ali Abusalem a very close friend of CQUniversity. He has been a great help in promoting the University in the Middle East. We drove the 140km to Abu Dhabi.

Much of Sunday was taken up with meetings with Ken Hawkins and Geoff Wessling from CMS. They gave me feedback on their visit to Saudi Arabia to market the University which they had undertaken the previous week. We also took some time to plan our meetings for the rest of the week.

In the evening we met up with a number former and potential students including Talal Fawal and Ahmed Aldarmaki over dinner at Bab Al Shams. This was one of the fun parts of the trip. Great food and entertainment...

After a lost night's sleep on the plane and a 6 hour time difference I was very happy to be heading back to the hotel after dinner at about 10.30pm. Little did I know that I would not see my bed until well after midnight! Earlier in the evening Egypt had won the African Nations soccer cup. This brought the Egyptian ex-pats out onto the streets of Abu Dhabi in force. There were massive traffic jams throughout the city. It was a very happy city! I can honestly say that I have never been happier to get to bed after such a long day!

Monday was a very rewarding day. I visited the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. I met with Dr Saif AL Mazroui the Executive Director for International and Support Services. I briefed him on the direction that CQUniversity was taking and how we could work together. I am very pleased to report that we have been put onto the list of approved Australian Universities for UAE students. This is very important if we are to get more students studying with us from the UAE.

I also met with Professor Dr. Samir Abdalla Eldessouky an advisor to the Ministry. He gave me a briefing on progress being made by the Universities in the UAE. There is no doubt that these Universities are making great progress. I am hopeful that we will be able to work with the UAE Universities in the future.

I also met with senior staff from the scholarship section of the Ministry. We discussed a number of issues. This was important because the UAE sends many of its young people overseas for higher education. I think our university has a lot to offer these students and I hope to be seeing many more of them at CQUniversity as we move forward.

After my visit to the Ministry I went back to the hotel for a meeting with Ms Gabrielle Troon the Manger, Education Services for “Study Melbourne” from the State Government of Victoria. We discussed issues facing higher education providers in the UAE – in particular those providers (like us) who are bringing students into Victoria.

This evening I had a pre-dinner informal meeting with Professor Jim Mienczakowski from the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and a former CQUniversity staff member. We were joined by Dr Robert Thompson Head of Special Projects at ADEC. He is also a former CQUniversity member of staff. I briefed them on how we are progressing as a university.

I was then very privileged to be a guest of His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan. Sheikh Nahayan is the Minister for Higher Education and a member of the Royal family. It was a fascinating event. We ate camel and other UAE delicacies. There were four nobel laureates at the dinner!

Over dinner I had a chance to discuss issues with Dr Tayeb A. Kamali, the Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology. This is a university with 17 campuses 18,000 students. He was very interested to hear that we have an expertise in railway engineering. His university is just starting to get involved in this field. There is a plan to build a national railway across the UAE.
After dinner it was back to the hotel to write this blog. Once I have put this to bed I will try and clear some emails!

The United Arab Emirates is a fascinating place. It has rich mineral wealth (mainly of the black liquid form) and has challenging training and educational needs – does that sound familiar? There are many similarities between the UAE and Central Queensland. I am convinced there are many opportunities to build links with this part of the world. The people here are gracious and generous. There are many alumni of Australian Universities who have a deep love of Australia. This is a great place to come and see the value of international education.


Suzi said...

A great read thanks, Scott. I'm interested in the alumni you met - did you get their contact details? Suzi

Evan said...

This is great news. Where to next?
You and your team have clearly done some great planning and spade work before the trip.

Could UAE be a source of academic staff too, or are their salaries outcompeting us?

Evan Yabsley
Research Fellow

Scot said...

Hi Scott,

Many thanks for a comprehensive report of your trip thus far. For us rank and file CQUni staff it is indeed good to see your trip goals and planned activities articulated. One might say a "breath of fresh air".

Keep up the good work,


Surya said...

Great hearing this inspriing, wonderful experience and proactive role by our vice chancellor for promotion of CQuniversity Australia in the middleeast and UAE.

Another area where we can develop long term reseach collaboration and postgardate students engagement in Land and Water Managment inclduing managment of fresh, saline and treated water for primary industries and environmental causes. CQuniversity

If you can get sometime you may contact following:

International Center for Biosaline Agriculture
Dubai/Al Ain Road
Al Ruwayyah (near Academic City)
PO Box 14660
United Arab Emirates

Tel: +971 4 3361100
Fax: +971 4 3361155
Email: icba@biosaline.org.ae

In CQUniveristy, CPWS, we have strong team, research facilites and some on-going course that address these needs. I am sure there will be plenty of local interests great oppertunities. Dr Ali Abusalem, accompanying in your team now there, will also be able to explain about our research and teaching stregth in the area of land, water and vegetation manamgment to local communitiesin UAE.

I will be very happy to provide further information if required.


Surya Bhattarai (CPWS)

הפצת ניוזלטר said...

Yes, this is really good news indeed.


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Anonymous said...

anyone who thinks overseas business trips are junkets has obviously never worked in International business. A job well done!

bhinton said...

Having fairly recently returned from the UAE (asspro at Zayed University)the blog entries were certainly evocative. I recall attending a majlis hosted by Sheik Nayahan...a very interesting man.

Charles Pierson said...

"That is not to say sthat work trips are not enjoyable..."

- i agree to this line... lol vacation is a vacation but when it is combined with work, i can't think of ways to enjoy the trip...

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tomato planter upside down said...

The holdiay versus a working trip is always some thing to keep in mind. I have to as a gardener.

Jane Smith said...

This post is really good!