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Expo 2020: Heriot-Watts Online Education Initiative

Launches global online education initiative, Future Skills conference at UK Pavilion, Expo 2020

Heriot-Watt University Dubai unveiled the new global online education initiative called Heriot-Watt Online at the Future Skills Conference at Expo 2020. The conference helped explore how the University’s world-leading research is shaping education, catalyzing industries and framing jobs of tomorrow in response to the changing workplace – through sustainability, mobility and opportunity. Designed on the same lines, the Heriot-Watt Online initiative opens up higher education opportunities to hundreds of thousands of non-traditional students around the world.   

Heriot-Watt Online at Expo 2020
(L to R) Professor Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice Principal, Heriot-Watt University Dubai, Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director General, Knowledge and Human Development Authority and Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University at the Future Skills Conference hosted by Heriot-Watt University at Expo 2020

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.

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.”

Heriot-Watt Online at Expo 2020
Professor Richard A. Williams, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at Heriot-Watt University, giving the key-note at the Future Skills Conference at Expo 2020

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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