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Nahyan bin Mubarak opens HCT's 23rd conference

Sep 18, 2010 - 04:59 -

Dubai, 18 Sep. 2010 (WAM) - Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education '&' Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology today opened the 23rd conference of the HCT, being held at the Dubai Women's Colleges.

The opening ceremony was attended by Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, sneior officials, and members of the HCT's teaching staff.

Sheikh Nahyan delivered th conference's keynote speech in which he welcomed the new members. He expressed thanks and gratitude to the guidance and leadership of His Highness, President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, and to their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates.

"We appreciate, as well, the interest and encouragement of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Our leaders' generous support of our students and their strong backing of the Higher Colleges are essential to our continued progress and success," he added.

Below is the full text of Sheikh Nahyan's speech: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

I am delighted to welcome all of you to the 23rd year of the Higher Colleges of Technology. I offer a special welcome to our new members and I hope that you will find the Higher Colleges to be a rewarding career for you. I also want to welcome our now not-so-new Provost, Dr. Mark Drummond, who is attending his first convocation with us. And to all our distinguished guests, thank you for your continuing support of, and contributions to, the Higher Colleges of Technology.

At the beginning of each academic year we convene to celebrate the success and progress of our colleges and to look forward to the future. Today, we take pride in the fact that our journey over the past 22 years has been guided by a clear vision, by a commitment to excellence, by strong leadership, by dedicated faculty and staff, and by the unwavering support of our communities and our national leaders.

I am honored today, as we embark on our 23rd academic year, to express gratitude to our leaders for their strong support of the Higher Colleges of Technology. We appreciate the guidance and leadership of His Highness, the President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan and wish him continuing good health. We are also grateful to His Highness, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, and to their Highnesses the Rulers of the Emirates.. And we appreciate, as well, the interest and encouragement of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Our leaders' generous support of our students and their strong backing of the Higher Colleges are essential to our continued progress and success.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud of what we have accomplished. The Higher Colleges of Technology is a national system of colleges, closely connected to and serving the needs of their respective communities. We take pride in our graduates who add exceptional value to their families, their communities and to their places of employment. We are proud of our proven ability to deal with change, sometimes dramatic change, so that we continue to excel and to meet all expectations.

Our faculty and staff continue to perform at the highest levels, creating an environment known as a good place to work and learn. Regular evaluation and assessment lead to continuous improvement that strengthens education and training at the colleges. Our program offerings respond to clear community and national needs and focus on student achievement and academic excellence.

Last year I identified for you several goals and priorities for the year. I am pleased to report that, as usual, you rose to meet those challenges and performed with great dedication. Thanks to your effective efforts, the Higher Colleges of Technology continues to provide a superb educational experience for our students and to make important contributions to the United Arab Emirates.

For me, personally, the most important accomplishment of the Higher Colleges of Technology is that we continue to serve our students well. We help them define and attain their educational and personal goals. We instill in them the desire for lifelong learning, the commitment to serve their country and contribute to its development and progress; and we provide these students with opportunities to connect with business and government in their search for gainful employment.

Our impressive accomplishments reflect clear entrepreneurial attitudes that seize opportunities for growth and advancement. We have a strong focus on quality and excellence - not only on inputs to the educational process, but also on the outcomes we produce. We value continuous improvement in teaching and learning; we are engaged in partnerships with the community, with business, with government, with schools and with colleges and universities around the globe. I am grateful that we have been dedicated to making these important partnerships effective and useful.

Thanks to all of you, we now enjoy a level of institutional excellence that allows us to move into the future with confidence and resolve. Our total enrollment this year exceeds 18,000 students which makes us the largest higher education institution in the country and one of the largest in the region. Last year, we graduated more than 4,000 graduates, bringing the total number of graduates during our 22 years to more than 48,000. Indeed, this is an astonishing number of success stories of students who are enriching their families and our nation.

In your discussions during this convocation, you will deal with many of the initiatives underway in the colleges. As you know, a new Foundations program is ready for implementation this year as is a new academic credentialing structure that allows for seamless progression from Diploma to Bachelor degree. A new general education component will be integrated into our curriculum, offering students a broad based educational experience. The various Centers of Excellence in the colleges are carrying out their missions of improving teaching and learning throughout our college system and expanding the outreach to our communities.

We are also in the process of implementing an enrollment-based funding formula. This formula will help secure the appropriate resources necessary to provide world class education to our students. I am hopeful that with adequate and predictable funding, we will now be able to focus on improvement of our educational and outreach programs, and upon productivity increases, rather than being preoccupied about inadequate funding that restricts our vision and achievements.

We are also in the midst of a major campaign to update and improve our physical facilities. This includes a new campus for the Ras Al-Khaimah Women's College, expansions of the Fujairah Women's campus, and both the Al-Ain Women's and Men's campuses. In addition, we will make major improvements at the Abu Dhabi Men's College where the HCT Innovation City will be located. All these projects will incorporate sound sustainable development principles. In fact, our commitment to sustainable development will be further strengthened by the new academic program in Sustainable Built Environment. We are proud that the Higher Colleges are taking the lead with these important initiatives.

Active collaboration with the community is an important aspect of our work. The Higher Colleges of Technology will manage and deliver academic and training programs for workers at many local and national institutions. Many partnerships with international institutions for research and outreach are also in place. And we will host the sixth biennial "Education Without Borders" conference this year in Abu Dhabi, while the Education Without Borders Regional Forums are being organized in different regions of the world.

These are just a few of the accomplishments from last year. Clearly, we have established a solid record in our first two decades.

However this is a new year and we have great expectations for it. Before I go into some of my expectations for this year, let me remind you quickly of some goals and priorities I discussed with you last year. I do so in order to emphasize the importance of continuity in our work.

Last year, I urged you to focus on several important parts of our mission. I spoke to you specifically about our responsibility to: - educate our students for the twenty-first century, - align our educational mission to the social and economic needs of the United Arab Emirates, - solidify our educational leadership throughout our region, - maintain an effective community engagement and outreach program, and - to expand our global reach.

I stressed to you our solid commitment to student learning and to the excellent preparation of graduates for both a lifetime of useful, productive work and a lifetime of useful and productive citizenship. Our students must be challenged and empowered through innovation, use of relevant technologies, teaching excellence and student support programs that prepare each student with the knowledge, skills and values to succeed in a changing world. Today I add to this the need for effective assessment systems that provide evidence of what we achieve and identify needed corrections when we fall short. I believe strongly that using data effectively will enhance student success and will help our colleges become more accountable and effective.

Last year, I also spoke to you about the importance of obtaining international institutional accreditation. I look to this process as a means to reaffirm our mission, understand our goals and objectives, and to make positive changes in our work practices. I am hopeful that your wide participation in this process will contribute to our institutional effectiveness.

Last year, we also discussed the importance of integration and collaboration among all our colleges and centers. We all belong to the same college system. All of our colleges and centers must work closely together. Collaboration and close coordination are essential for achieving our full potential and improving efficiency and productivity. Today, I say to you again that our college system can only be successful when each college is successful and when the values of collaboration and coordination among our colleges and centers are promoted and strengthened.

Also, we must remember that the Higher Colleges of Technology exist within a larger system of national higher education, with each institution having a distinct mission and role in serving students and thereby our communities and our country.

As you can see, ladies and gentlemen, these elements of our mission represent ongoing goals that will shape the future of our college system. I ask you to continue to give these goals priority in your planning and actions. Being true to our mission, guarantees our leadership position in higher education. It is also the reason that throughout our 22-year history, we have enjoyed the strong support of our communities and national leaders.

Ladies and Gentlemen: I would like to highlight for you today another important aspect of our mission. This concerns our responsibility to understand the communities which we serve. The Higher Colleges of Technology is unique in that we have campuses all over the country and therefore we are attuned to the needs in each community. Consequently, our activities must be shaped by the social and economic needs and priorities of these communities. From the beginning in 1988, we wanted each college to be a vital participant in the total development process of its community. College resources must be directed to facilitate economic growth and development, to provide learning opportunities to meet the educational needs of our citizens, and to contribute to the quality of life and social progress in the United Arab Emirates.

This part of our mission is critical to our continued relevance as a leading institution of higher education in the United Arab Emirates. It is an aspect of our work that has acquired more importance in recent years in view of the growth and development of the United Arab Emirates itself. Our society is changing and we must change with it. The United Arab Emirates plays a pivotal role in regional and world affairs. Our country is seeking a more diversified economy; we value innovation, we are leaders in the development and conserving of energy; we are examining issues of education, health care delivery, food safety and security, trade and investment, and regional security. Today, there is a great opportunity for our colleges to play leadership roles in helping our country achieve the positive changes that our society seeks.

Consequently, I am asking each of our colleges to devote some of its attention this year to becoming a local hub for renewal, for development and for progress. Let me suggest some ideas that may be very relevant in this important quest.

First: I encourage each of you to read and discuss Vision 2021 which was announced earlier this year by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum. This vision promotes innovation and emphasizes development of the human capital of the United Arab Emirates. We know that innovation thrives through effective partnerships which involve industry, government, and educational institutions. Our colleges can play an important role in building these partnerships. We can play an important role in promoting innovation as the basis for establishing the United Arab Emirates as one of the world's healthiest economies of the future.

Our plans currently call for building an Innovation City on the Abu Dhabi Men's campus. This is a great initiative. But we also need to create a situation where innovation is an indispensable part of the work of each of our colleges. Each college should help its local community to find its areas of innovation where it has a distinct advantage. You should help your communities explore the economic opportunities embedded in emerging fields such as renewable energy, environmental sustainability, nanotechnology, information technology, health care, and biotechnology. Partnerships with business and government should enable each college to help in generating promising new ideas, bringing them to practical applications, and establishing the conditions for entrepreneurial success.

Innovation requires investment in research and development, but more importantly, innovation requires people who are willing to take risks and who know that it takes hard work, team work, and creativity to succeed.

Globally we find that innovation is most often driven by advances in science, mathematics, and technology. We know that in the UAE, too few students are interested in careers in these areas. Research shows that student interest in these areas must be cultivated in the early years of schooling. Consequently, this matter requires candid discussions with our nation's schools and with our colleagues at other colleges and universities. I look forward to learning of your ideas concerning how to make each of our colleges a successful center of innovation that provides the best education for its students and is focused on what is important to the future of the United Arab Emirates.

Second: In creating an innovation society in the United Arab Emirates, nothing is more important than the education reform of our public schools. We must help to make all our public schools active learning, student-centered and quality oriented. This requires teachers who are well prepared and committed to using modern pedagogy. It requires curricula that use international best practices and are relevant to our students and the nation. It requires technology that will enhance the learning of students and the improvement of operations and management. In effect, school reform requires the same kind of commitment to excellence that already exists in the Higher Colleges of Technology.

I know that the Higher Colleges of Technology has been very supportive of national plans to improve the public schools. I have already spoken about the importance of increasing student interest in careers in science, mathematics and technology and the value of these areas in innovation and entrepreneurship. Improving the teaching of science and mathematics in our public schools is a strategic imperative for our country, one in which our colleges should be leaders and drivers of major initiatives for its success.

Third: Another imperative strategic goal is to improve the English language compentency of students who graduate from the nation's school system and eventually to remove the need for remedial programs in our colleges and universities all together. I know our colleges are working hard to make the foundation program more efficient, and a major new initiative in this area will be launched this year. This is admirable, but our goal must extend far beyond that to cooperation with the schools in order to increase the English language proficiency of students graduating from these schools.

It is time to bring together all educational institutions to collectively address the remediation issue that has plagued our educational system for decades. I look forward to your engagement in working with the schools and with the UAE University and Zayed University to define appropriate exit standards for secondary school graduates. Concurrently, the standards must be accompanied by creating pathways most likely to help students reach them. We should develop research programs and data systems that help us monitor and improve student performance. We must commit ourselves to making significant progress in eradicating the need for foundation programs in our colleges and universities.

Fourth: In view of the emergence of the United Arab Emirates as a regional center of culture and the arts, each of our colleges must strive to become a community center for these activities and expand its offerings and programs in this important area. A community-oriented program of arts and culture complements our academic mission, contributes to the quailty of life in our communities, and establishes each college as a vibrant community center.

Fifth: We must also become leaders in sustainability practices where we continuously look for ways to preserve the environment and to conserve energy on our campuses. We must encourage education and innovation in this area. Our goals at the Higher Colleges of Technology must include joining the national commitment in the United Arab Emirates to be leaders in sustainable technologies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, these ideas are only examples of how to become involved in our communities and establish ourselves as centers of development and progress. I expect you to create many other ideas. I am sure that your experience, your creativity and your capacity for innovation will allow you to develop these ideas and expand them to other areas that can make each college relevant to the needs and priorities of its community.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Our college system is committed to the highest standards for the education and personal growth of our students and for innovative and rigorous education and assessment.

This commitment is incorporated into our core values and overarching priorities. I must remind you today of these core values which include an absolute commitment to quality, innovation, and partnerships in serving our students and our communities. They also include global orientation and outreach, integrity, open mindedness and tolerance, and a strong resolve to function as a leading institution of higher education. These core values govern everything we do and will always shape our plans and priorities.

We continue to achieve at a very high level and at a fast pace. However, as we move into the new college year, we must not become content or complacent. We should continue to innovate and to move ahead to new levels of achievement for our students and our communities.

I look forward to another year of achievement at the Higher Colleges of Technology. I wish each of you every success in the year ahead.

Thank you WAM/MAB