Muscat University will be able to make a positive contribution to the higher education sector in Oman and be able to graduate students with the right knowledge, skills and experience to help drive organisations forward. Excerpts from an interview with Vice-Chancellor, Professor Yusra Mouzughi
There is a growing gap between the demands of job market and the skillsets of the graduates coming out of the universities? How are you going to address these concerns?
We are the first University in Oman to incorporate a full year-long placement (internship) as a compulsory part of our undergraduate programmes. Therefore students joining Muscat University will study at the University for years one and two, will spend the whole of year three in industry and will return to the University for their final year. This year is critical in developing the students’ skills and understanding of the world of work. This also allows us to have close clinks with industry and the public sector to appreciate their needs and areas of growth going forward. Furthermore, we are embedding soft skills throughout all our programmes so that students leave the University fully capable of operating efficiently and effectively in a professional setting.
Can you talk about the objectives, vision and mission of Muscat University?
Muscat University was set up with a very clear and defined agenda which is to deliver a high-quality educational experience for students in Oman and the wider region. Our vision for Muscat University is that by 2023, we will have established a reputation as a leading provider of high- quality, research-informed, industry-engaged education.
In reality this means that students joining our programmes or delegates attending our executive education programmes will not only be assured of cutting edge learning and teaching in the specialist field but also that the content is very relevant to current day industry challenges.
We are able to ensure quality through strong partnerships with leading UK universities. We have chosen to partner with Cranfield University in the UK for all our Master’s Programmes and Aston University, also in the UK, for all our Bachelor’s Programmes. The strength of the partnerships is demonstrated through the fact that students completing the programmes get a Muscat University degree certificate as well as a certificate from the partner institution (Cranfield or Aston) therefore, they are actually students on both universities. As many as 90 per cent of our teaching at Master’s level and 40-60 per cent of teaching at Bachelor’s level is delivered by flying faculty from the UK.
Whilst quality is paramount in everything we do, we also recognise the importance of having and maintaining close links with industry so that our graduates can indeed make a valuable and positive contribution to any organisation they join. We ensure those close links by involving industry experts in some of our teaching, seeking their advice on developments in the curriculum, and helping us predict future trends in our specific disciplines.
On a final point, we are conscious that we are a true University only if we engage in research and to that end we have been working closely with our international partners as well as colleagues locally to address issues and challenges facing the Sultanate through rigorous and relevant research. We are currently collaborating with colleagues at EJAAD – the new research platform for research project and we are proud to announce that we have recently won a British Council-funded research project in collaboration with Aston University, UK.
And how does the university distinguish itself from other centers of higher education in Oman?
There are many institutions of higher education here in Oman and they cater for different markets and different ‘customer’ needs. Muscat University’s focus on quality means that we are able to offer a true and viable alternative to people who may usually consider studying overseas by bringing the high-quality UK educational experience to them here in Oman. For some people, travel abroad is difficult due to family, work or social commitments so providing this alternative is a welcome opportunity for many people.
Further, Muscat University is focusing more on the postgraduate end of the educational spectrum than the undergraduate. At present we have six Master’s programmes and three Bachelor’s programmes. We are working with the Ministry of Higher Education to deliver a Professional Doctorate as well as expanding our portfolio of MSc programmes. Our view is that we do not want to repeat what is already available in the market.
Can you talk about the academic programmes you are offering and the faculties at the university?
Muscat University has three distinct faculties providing degrees in areas of prime importance to the Sultanate and the wider region. Our choice of faculties and programmes was informed by the feasibility studies carried out by Oxford University Innovation (UK) and aligned with Oman Vision 2040 where we established the areas of need and areas of growth for the Sultanate. Our areas of focus address those needs and we are proud that we have the very first faculty of transport and logistics in Oman, given the importance of this sector for Oman’s long term vision.
Faculty of Business & Management
The Faculty of Business and Management (FBM) offers one undergraduate and two postgraduate programmes. The faculty’s programmes are designed to deliver a rich theoretical knowledge in conjunction with practical skills that meet the challenges of a dynamic business world.
FBM provides significant opportunities for more research collaborations between students and local and regional business.
• BSc Accounting for Management
• MSc Finance and Management
• MSc Management and Entrepreneurship
Faculty of Engineering & Technology
The Faculty of Engineering and Technology (FET), offers one undergraduate and two post graduate programmes. FET offers very high quality engineering programmes that help meet the wide range of employment needs in various sectors.
• BEng Chemical Engineering
• MSc Energy Systems and Thermal Processes
• MSc Process Systems Engineering
Faculty of Transport & Logistics
The Faculty of Transport and Logistics (FTL) offers one undergraduate and two postgraduate programmes.
FTL programmes will enable students to develop a detailed understanding and knowledge of logistics and its place across diverse sectors. It prepares them to meet the region’s logistic and transport needs.
• BSc Logistics with Supply Chain Management
• MSc Logistics and Supply Chain Management
• MSc Air Transport Management (Executive)
What are the main focus areas in the initial years of operations?
As a new institution, there are many areas we need to cover but our prime area of focus is that of quality. We have committed to a very high-quality educational experience as we believe this will make a real difference to the employability of our graduates. At Muscat University, we fall under both the Oman Academic Accreditation Authority (OAAA) as well as the UK Quality Assurance Agency because of our UK partnerships. These two bodies give us added assurance that we are addressing quality at multiple levels and to global standards.
What are the major challenges facing you? And what are the main challenges facing Oman’s education sector?
On a national level, the education sector in Oman is a very young and crowded market and therefore, it is important that as the sector grows and matures that we develop individual areas of expertise and a niche focus for each institution. For Muscat University as a new entrant into the market, we are very clear where our focus is and our unique value proposition but we are now working hard to build the University brand both nationally as well as internationally to be able to recruit students from overseas to join us not only for the educational journey but also to explore the pleasures that Oman has to offer.
What is your future outlook?
We are very confident that Muscat University will be able to make a positive contribution to the higher education sector in Oman and be able to graduate students with the right knowledge, skills and experience to help drive organisations forward. Further, our broad portfolio of executive education programmes which will come online in Sept 2018 will meet the needs of industry and provide upskilling opportunities for employees from various industries.
We also aim to work closely with colleagues and partners to help inform the research agenda based on a contextualized understanding of the real issues and challenges facing the region.