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Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan: A genuine role model


His Excellency Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, UAE has always been successful in all the positions he held, and today he is an inspiration to every student in the UAE. In a conversation with H.E. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, we delve into his career path in the government and learn more about his added value to the UAE and its young generation.

Your Excellency, first, please tell us more about all the other high ranking positions you held throughout your entire career life so far?

In March 2013, I was appointed as Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and have already set myself a progressive agenda that will have a strong focus on Emiratisation and creating more consistency across the system now that the federal universities will be regulated by the Ministry. In August of this year, I was appointed Chancellor of UAE University; the same university I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and Management from in 1982. I went on to do MY postgraduate studies in Aviation in the United Kingdom.

I joined the Department of Civil Aviation in Abu Dhabi in 1984 as the Under Secretary and was later appointed the Chairman in 1991. The International Airport flourished and expanded during my headship. I also served as the Chairman of Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company (GAMCO) for 10 years. Furthermore, I served as Chairman of Abu Dhabi Aviation and as the rotating Chairman of Gulf Air. I currently serve as Chairman to Royal Jet, an award winning international luxury flight services provider.

I have headed public offices that include President of the Higher Committee for UAE Civil Seaports and Airports Security as well as Chairman of the award winning authority, Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme. I headed up the National Media Council as well as the National Transport Authority. Prior to becoming the Current Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, I was the Minister of Public Works and also was bestowed with several honours.

I have deep roots in the Private Sector chairing amongst others, National Corporation of Tourism & Hotels, Pearl Azure Hotel Management LLC, AUH Hotels LLCand Bank Al Falah.

How do you rate higher education in the UAE? How many higher education institutes exist in UAE? How many students attend these institutes?

I do not think you can “rate” our higher education system per se. What am I comparing it to? Other countries, systems, our federal universities to another country’s?

What I can say is that education has always been one of the highest priorities for the social development of our Country. The first university opened its doors in 1977 and we now have 106 institutes in the UAE with just under 77,000 students enrolled in Private Education Sector and over 41,000 students enrolled in federal universities. Just over half of those are women.

We have formed partnerships and joint ventures with international education providers and have attracted some of the most prestigious institutes from across the globe such as INSEAD, Sorbonne and NYU.

The UAE has been actively involved with UNESCO’s “Education for All” mandate that was established in the 1990s. In 2010 we again pledged our commitment to achieving universal education by 2015.

Having said that, there is always room for improvement. We are aware of our shortfalls and now have a plan in place to address them.  The labour market’s needs do not equally match the skill sets of our graduates, thus the National Qualifications Authority, (NQA) and the National Occupational Standards (NOS) will enable the development of qualifications that will be more in line with the labour market needs.

Does the ministry have any rating system for these institutes? Inspection processes?

The Ministry does not have a rating system for Higher Education Institutes.

The UAE has an extremely diverse assortment of institutes and it would be very difficult to come up with a system that could rank these institutes fairly and successfully.

There are other statistics and information that are collected by CHEDS (Centre for Higher Education Data and Statistics) Office on behalf of the Ministry that is available to the public through their website.

Potential students can make an informed decision by evaluating information such as faculty qualifications, faculty research productivity, student progression, employability of graduates, etc.

What the UAE public can be assured of is that we do ensure that the colleges and universities of the United Arab Emirates operate at international levels of quality.

The Commission for Academic Accreditation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research conducts a program of licensure of institutions of higher education and accreditation of each of their academic programs.

This year the three federal institutions (UAEU, ZU, HCT) are being reviewed for their compliance with the CAA Standards.  Institution-wide reviews are taking place in November and December.  Program-specific accreditation reviews will follow.

All institutions must now meet for licensure and program accreditation, and also reflect a consensus within the international higher education community on the essential characteristics required of institutions to achieve continuous improvement. As a result, students, graduates, their families, and the U.A.E. public can be confident that licensed institutions and accredited programs will provide the quality of higher education that they expect and deserve.

There is an increased demand for online degrees, as the world is getting smaller. Is there a chance in the Ministry stand as not to recognise online degrees, even though thousands now hold these degrees?

The Commission has maintained standards for the accreditation of online degrees awarded by UAE-based institutions since 2004.  This year the Commission has published an e-Learning Addendum to the Standards for Licensure and Accreditation 2011.  This document sets out the requirements that UAE institutions offering degrees wholly or partly in online mode need to meet, in terms of such areas as faculty preparation, support for online learners, the availability and reliability of e-learning technology, and the requirement for comparable levels of academic rigor for online and face-to-face courses.  One local university, Hamdan bin Mohammed e-University in Dubai, which offers almost all of its instruction in blended mode (combination of online and face-to-face instruction), has been licensed by the CAA under that name since 2009 (and before that under its earlier name e-TQM College).

 What is your message to youth of UAE aspiring to pursue higher education?

I have always been inspired by a quote that needs no interpretation from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. “The education of our people is a great wealth. We are proud of our educated nation because through knowledge and science we will open the horizons of a glorious future.”

 Can you tell us about a regular day for you in the office?

A regular day in the office… I come in early and go through my emails and any correspondence required. Once that is out of the way I am meeting and interacting with my people.

I also frequently run internal meetings with our team to stay close to operations.

During breaks between meetings I walk around to interact with the organisation and get charged up with all the activities within the Ministry.

I know the saying goes quality over quantity when it comes to time management but I have learned over the years that when it comes to my team – quantity of time gets results.

I participate in strategic sessions, project meetings and I also speak with University Chancellors, visiting delegations and my counterparts in other countries.

On top of this, I help out the different core entities within the Ministry, ensuring that all teams are working together toward a common goal. I meet with teams often to help them remove any roadblocks and ensure we are using the correct strategy. I make sure that any changes to strategy are communicated across all teams.

One of my highlights of the week though is to go to the UAE University. Having graduated from there I take great pride in my role as the Chancellor and always get a bit nostalgic for my student days when there.

Your Highness was the Minister of Public Works and Housing before assuming the current position as Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research. In your opinion, what makes you eligible that the government gave you the responsibility of yet another Ministry?

I educate myself and try to immerse myself in the subject and what I don’t know I ask.

My team is experienced and made up of functional experts who know their job well.

My job is to essentially think of the road map and steer our team towards the goals and mission.

 What is the happiest moment of your career?

I think my greatest accomplishment so far is creating a balance between my professional life, personal life and staying healthy. I think it is very easy to get lost sometimes and I now feel that having achieved this balance has made me a better leader as well as a better person and role model for my kids. I have had great milestones in every position I have held such as:


  • My passion for the aviation industry was awarded with the Honorary Livery of the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators as well as Honorary Companionship of the Royal Aeronautical Society, the highest honour that the organisation can bestow.
  • “Project Falcon” which was a 3-year recovery programme for Gulf Air was initiated during my tenure there.
  • Gulf Air moved their Hub to Abu Dhabi during my tenure.
  • While at the airport I launched the down town airport terminal and opened Al Ain Airport. From day 1 we had 5 international airlines using the facilities.
  • At Public Works, we completed the new highway between Dubai and Fujairah.
  • Awarding the Ministry of Public Works for the second time in a row as the best federal Ministry in the performance of the Strategic Planning in 2010.
  • I rejoice with my team at Royal Jet every time we win an award. We were just named World’s Leading Private Jet Charter for the 7th year in a row.

And now I look forward to the great accomplishments we can make here at the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.


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