Hamdullahpur: Dubai wasn’t best option

Nov 23, 2012 · News · By Eduardo Ramirez

  • President Feridun Hamdullahpur ponders for a moment after being asked a question about graduate funding for UW students at UW’s town hall meeting.

    Eduardo Ramirez
  • Eduardo Ramirez

Town hall meeting discusses UAE campus closure, rankings, and graduate affairs

The University of Waterloo’s fall town hall meeting took place Nov. 20 at the Humanities Theatre. At the meeting, UW president Feridun Hamdullahpur, and provost and vice -president academic Sallie Keller reported on recent strategic planning activities, the university’s internationalization agenda, and key campus updates. Town hall meetings, usually held twice a year, are open to all members of the university community, and usually feature opening remarks from the president and provost, followed by a mix of questions sent in via email,and questions from the floor. 

President Hamdullahpur opened his presentation with a video titled “Ideas Start Here” which illustrates why UW is considered the most innovative school in Canada by showing significant projects and ideas that have been created by UW students such as the Pebble, RIM smartphones, and anti-flood roofs.  This led to Hamdullahpur’s statement about what innovation means to UW.

“The University of Waterloo is becoming more international since more and more students are going abroad to develop their ideas, more and more students are being hired by companies outside Canada. Our university needs to be aware of the global impact UW has on the world,”  Hamdullahpur stated.

He said that “we are going to continue to be the most significant research university of Canada.” Hamdullahpur also stated that UW is not anywhere close to reaching the Sixth Decade Plan, and that students, staff, and faculty need to work hard in the next couple of years to accomplish the goals of the strategic plan.

One of the most significant topics of discussion during the town hall meeting was the unexpected closure of UW’s Dubai campus. According to Hamdullahpur, there were three main reasons that led to the closure of the campus.

The first is that the Dubai campus did not attract the number of students needed to be financially viable, and even when enrolment appeared to be on the rise from the 20 students who started in 2009 to the 140 students who enrolled in 2012, it didn’t match the expected 500 students in the university’s business plan. 

The second reason is that keeping the campus open wasn’t financially feasible, since not enough students were enrolled in the programs offered at UAE. “Financially it wasn’t making sense,” said Hamdullahpur.

The third reason for the sudden closure was that UW felt that Dubai wasn’t the best place for a UW campus. “We had to be there for three years in order to realize that Dubai wasn’t a good place for our campus,” declared Hamdullahpur.

The academic integrity accusations against a UW graduate student and a professor were also discussed during the meeting to which the UW president explained that they are “not rushing into sudden conclusions... we are investigating this to the fullest.”

Some of the questions asked by the public included the future opening of a campus in China, to which Keller answered that there are no future plans to open  new campuses around the world, although UW has opened an international office in Hong Kong to service most of Asia.

Hamdullahpur also stated that UW is becoming a more research intensive university and the rankings prove it.

When questioned about the Maclean’s rankings, Hamdullahpur stated that “rankings are important, whether we like them or not... we are looking into the methodology of the rankings, so we can create our own judgments, they tell us there are weaknesses, for example the undergraduate to graduate ratio.”

 To which one of the audience members stated that UW is excellent in short duration research fields, but it also needs to improve the research  quality of humanities and arts research programs.

 The last item of discussion was the physical expansion of UW; since more undergrads enroll every year, the space currently available to them is becoming insufficient. As enrolment continues to rise, new student and faculty buildings need to be created. “We will continue to grow our physical population because we must,” said Hamdullahpur.

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