FIRST Minister Alex Salmond today opened Heriot-Watt University’s new £35-million campus in Dubai.
The purpose-built development trebles the university’s original capacity of 1500 students and will allow it to expand its range of courses.
Six years ago, Heriot-Watt became the first overseas university to set up in Dubai International Academic City, offering top quality education to students and executives from the Gulf and further afield.
Speaking to students, staff and dignitaries at the opening today, Mr Salmond said education was one of Scotland’s most valuable exports.
He said: “This world-class campus will quite rightly help establish the high-quality reputation of Heriot-Watt University in the United Arab Emirates and will pave the way for the university’s expansion in the region and further afield.
“The high-quality Scottish education available at Heriot-Watt’s Dubai campus will provide thousands of students with the skills to become future leaders, managers and innovators to create a stronger business world.”
The International Academic City, where the new campus is based, is about 25 minutes from the centre of Dubai. The first phase, opened today, includes engineering laboratories and fashion and design studios.
Heriot-Watt principal, Professor Steve Chapman, who was also in Dubai for the opening, said the new campus heralded “an exciting new chapter” in the university’s life in Dubai and built upon its pioneering success.
He said: “As Scotland’s international university, the official opening of our new state-of-the-art, eco-friendly campus, offering world-class facilities, demonstrates our ambition and continued vision for providing high-quality and relevant Scottish Higher education in the region.”
Lena Wilson, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, said the new campus paved the way for a new generation of business leaders.
She said: “Scotland has a strong reputation in education and this new venture further highlights the high value that other nations place on Scotland’s knowledge, skills and expertise as world leaders in education and academia.
“By collaborating with Dubai, we can proactively make it easier for Scottish companies to trade within the UAE, ultimately boosting the Scottish economy.”
The First Minister unveiled a plaque to mark the opening and then toured the new facilities, where he saw textiles being designed and spoke to students in the engineering laboratories.
He also met students from Scotland. The second phase of the campus – which will begin in 2012 – will provide an auditorium, halls of residence, sports facilities and food outlets.
All management, design and engineering and built environment students can transfer to the Edinburgh or Scottish Borders campuses at any time after their first year in Dubai.
Some 45 per cent of students awarded a Scottish degree overseas obtain one from Heriot-Watt.