Sorbonne's emirati identity
It has not been easy to establish a French university that integrates well with the UAE education system but strong student enrolments paint a rosy picture, varsity director says
The Sorbonne is an Emirati university," Dr Jean-Yves de Cara, Executive Director of Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi (PSUAD) said. "This is not Sorbonne Paris, this is Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, committed to deliver the future Emirati workforce and meet the needs of the Emirati socio-economic society," Dr De Cara explained.
The PSUAD charter has been to take the best of what the French educational system has to offer, adapt it to educational policies of the UAE and deliver a world-class programmes without the unique aura of a heritage Paris-based Sorbonne, he said.
"Our objective is to mould the students with highest potential into future leaders in their disciplines," De Cara highlighted.
The concept of a world-leading French university that would consider itself a part of the UAE educational system was a vision considered unachievable by many. Yet, the university cohort grew to nearly 800 students in one of the most elaborate and campuses in the region.
"PSUAD is part of the Abu Dhabi Educational Council therefore it is an Emirati university by its groundwork frame, yet it's a French university by its content, its programmes and degrees," De Cara said.
Growth in enrolments
There have been other momentous challenges to overcome. "We created a French university in a nation dominated by an Anglo-Saxon culture. It is an audacious project to undertake. We cannot do the same thing as we are doing in Paris," Dr De Cara further explained.
One of the main obstacles is the proficiency of students in the French language, which is the mandatory educational language of the PSUAD undergraduate programmes. This doesn't apply to postgraduate programmes which are mainly taught in English.
While acknowledging it has been difficult to set up a French-speaking university in a part of the world where most people do not speak the language, he believes the signs so far, with 763 students enrolled, are that it is a successful project.
"We shouldn't be obsessed on how many students we have or can attract. The quality of the education we will deliver is more important than the number," De Cara added.
PSUAD opened in October 2006 and offers bachelor's and master's degrees in a wide range of majors in Humanities and Law.
PSUAD is evaluating expansion plans into scientific majors such as medicine, maths, physics
"We want to build programmes that are needed and deliver value to this country, in line with Abu Dhabi's 2030 strategic vision," De Cara stated.
So far, 98 have graduated with bachelors degrees and 83 with master's degrees.
De Cara is calling for the Emirati authorities to help strengthen PSUAD roots in the UAE and is calling for better integration and a deeper communication.
He is also calling for the Emirati universities to engage in activities that link students and staff.
Emiratis should engage more in PSUAD management, as one day the larger part of the professors will be PSUAD graduates he said.
We created a French university in a nation dominated by an Anglo- Saxon culture. It is an audacious project to undertake. We cannot do the same thing as we are doing in Paris."
Dr Jean-Yves de Cara
By Iman Sherif