Friday, April 25, 2008

  • Progress report on Abu Dhabi plan
  • It would bring in $20 million a year
  • 'Light and sound' premiere on stage
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Progress report on Abu Dhabi plan

by Brandon Sweet, communications and public affairs

“Some outstanding issues” remain before a UW branch campus in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, can become a reality, the university senate was told on Monday in an extensive presentation by Leo Rothenburg, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department and soon to be acting dean of engineering for 2008-09.

Rothenburg has been a key person in UW’s negotiations with authorities in Abu Dhabi as well as the proposed partner for the project, CERT — the Center of Excellence for Research and Training, a for-profit arm of the Abu Dhabi agency Higher Colleges of Technology.

His long presentation included substantial information about the history of Transnational Education or TNE, from its beginnings as a service to American GIs stationed in Europe after World War II to what’s now a booming global enterprise. There are, he said, at least 82 international branch campuses of various universities, including an Australian university that operates in Ontario and a University of Calgary campus in Qatar.

Rothenburg linked this global setting to UW’s Sixth Decade Plan with its emphasis on internationalization and “seizing opportunities” for UW and Canada. “In the next 30, 40 and 50 years, Canada will have to compete globally, and there will be global winners in the G7, and global losers,” said Rothenburg.

There are both opportunities and challenges involved in setting up a Waterloo campus in the United Arab Emirates, he pointed out. The UAE is a federation of seven emirates with a population of 4.4 million people, of whom only 19 per cent are native Emiratis. Half come from South Asia and most of the rest from Arab countries and Iran, with about 8 per cent made up of westerners. There is a fairly large Canadian community, he said, and a Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

On the international Human Development Index, the United Arab Emirates ranks on a par with Chile and Hungary, he told senate. Economic indicators are relatively high, though the education index is lower than in comparable countries. In the 1990s, the UAE’s score for “corruption” in business was unimpressive, but a change in national leadership has helped to clean things up: “The country is as clean as you can have,” said Rothenburg, “for their level of education and human development.”

However, according to something called the Ease of Doing Business Index, the UAE is ranked 77th in the world (Canada is at the top along with the United States and Singapore). Starting a business in that country is seen as difficult, and in Rothenburg’s view, to operate in the United Arab Emirates requires a good partner — hence the arrangement with CERT.

Back to top

It would bring in $20 million a year

As his presentation continued, Rothenburg went over the nuts and bolts of the Abu Dhabi proposal. The campus infrastructure would be provided by CERT, while UW would provide the academic programs: Chemical and Civil Engineering and Financial Analysis, Risk Management and IT Management.

Students would spend their first two years at the Abu Dhabi campus. Engineering students there will spend eight months in class for the 1A and 1B terms, followed by a work term, then 2A and 2B, followed by an eight-month work term. Then they will come to Waterloo, joining their counterparts on the main campus in time for academic term 3A. The first group are currently expected to begin studies in Abu Dhabi in September 2009 and reach Waterloo in winter 2012.

The mathematics students, meanwhile, will move in parallel with their counterparts on the main UW campus, studying in the fall and winter and having spring terms off, before arriving at UW for 3A in the fall term. The first group is due in September 2011.

Rothenburg said UW will have seven engineering faculty members and five to seven math professors at the Abu Dhabi campus, working on one or two-term assignments. (A survey of faculty has found that 69 per cent of chemical engineering profs are willing to go to Abu Dhabi at some point, and 85 per cent of those in civil and environmental engineering.) Teaching assistants — “full-time master’s level employees” — will be provided by CERT, along with lab demonstrators. The project will require 2 co-op coordinators: one from Waterloo and one from CERT.

The Higher Colleges of Technology have an internship program and placement office, senate was told, so they do have experience in placing students for eight-month internships. UW has also been in conversation with various companies who have made “reasonably firm” commitments to take in co-op students, including CNC-Lavelin and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority.

The Abu Dhabi program will eventually be providing 800-plus international students at a time, an increase of 3 per cent overall in UW’s home enrolment. Tuition revenues will be in the realm of $20 million a year, Rothenburg said.

He admitted that there are some issues to be resolved before the Abu Dhabi campus becomes a reality. The proposed 2+2 program poses challenges for accreditation: the two-year phase in Abu Dhabi does not lead to an identifiable degree outcome, and yet the subsequent two years at Waterloo doesn’t make up enough of the total program for it to be recognized as a “foreign degree”. The likely solution, Rothenburg said, is to operate the program under the licence of HCT, which will issue a “Pre-Engineering Diploma” to students who complete the first two years in Abu Dhabi. HCT will accredit UW’s programs as its own while recognizing that those programs will be under UW academic control.

Senators asked about gender segregation on the proposed UW campus — “absolutely not,” said Rothenburg — and about “family-friendly” policies for faculty and staff. For instance, what about a faculty member who is part of a family where both members are of the same gender, which would be against UAE law? Rothenburg observed that the Emirates operate largely on a live-and-let-live, so that authorities tend to overlook things, even though there have been a few high-profile incidents.

Another senator brought up the issue, raised at previous senate meetings, of the possibility of a required course on Islamic studies or history. Rothenburg said it’s now clear that in UW’s case that expectation does not apply.

Two senators raised the issue of financial risk, citing a couple of western universities that have been unsuccessful in UAE ventures. Rothenburg said that some institutions made the mistake of setting up shop in smaller cities rather than, as UW would be doing, in the heart of Abu Dhabi. Chakma, the provost, added that questions have been raised by members of UW’s board of governors about what happens if the enrolments do not materialize. “The risk is real,” he agreed, but after market research he believes UW’s brand will do the job. UW is not investing money in the buildings, and that risk is being borne by local partners. UW, he said, will invest in labs and faculty — and in the worst case, could bring UAE students directly to the Waterloo campus.

Back to top

'Light and sound' premiere on stage

Two hours of space, light and sound make up “Reaching for Nothing: Water’s Thirst”, a work partly created by UW architecture professor Dereck Revington that will have its premiere next week.

The show is being presented May 1 and 2 in the “Theatre of Ideas” at the Perimeter Institute in central Waterloo, jointly sponsored by Perimeter and music society Numus.

It’s describe as “an interdisciplinary work co-created by composer Peter Hatch and visual artist/architect Dereck Revington with dance choreographer David Earle”. Hatch is based at Wilfrid Laurier University, and Earle in Guelph.

Says Jesse Stewart, artistic director of Numus: “In our increasingly hyper-mediated world, we are constantly bombarded with sonic and visual information, much of which has little direct relevance to our lives. What a gift it is, then, to experience a work such as Reaching for Nothing: Water’s Thirst, a piece that engages the visual and auditory senses and opens a space for meditative reflection without the added pressure of a sales pitch.

“Over three years in the making, Reaching for Nothing combines the creative visions of two Canadian luminaries — composer Peter Hatch and visual artist/architect Dereck Revington — with the talents of some of this region’s most gifted creative practitioners. The result of their combined energies is not musical theatre, but rather a new form of interdisciplinary inquiry and knowledge production that challenges dominant assumptions and encourages new ways of seeing, hearing, and knowing.”

Program notes for “Reaching for Nothing: Water’s Thirst” tell more, describing “a 110-minute audio-visual meditation in which the breath of space, light and sound move as currents in a stream, crossing and weaving a four dimensional tapestry in which the audience is immersed.

“In her essay ‘The Anthropology of Water’, the poet Anne Carson writes: ‘Since ancient times, pilgrimages have been conducted from place to place, in the belief that a question can travel into an answer as water into thirst.’ Theoretical physicists from around the globe travel to the Perimeter Institute on such a quest. Within the institute there is a theatre: a stage for sounding the currents of subatomic speculation and research. It is also a place of crossing, where local and international artists are invited to stage similarly ineffable questions through a visceral mathematics of sound and light presented to a larger community.

“The work of a composer is normally measured in time; the work of an architect conventionally measured in space. As collaborators, we began by considering the temporal aspects of space and the spatial aspects of sound. Soon, underlying shape-shifting and time-shifting themes began moving through the piece. Reaching for Nothing: Water's Thirst is not an opera, a dance or a film; there is no narrative or program to follow. It is what might happen when one risks dissolving categories, as currents in a stream interflow, wind and unwind in a perpetual dance of becoming.”

Showtime is 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday next week. Tickets are $29 (students $19) from the Perimeter box office, phone 519-883-4480.


Back to top

Link of the day

Anzac Day

When and where

The myHRinfo system is down for system maintenance until Tuesday morning.

UW libraries (Dana Porter and Davis Centre) open 8 to 5 today; 12 to 5 Saturday and Sunday; 8 to 5 Monday to Friday next week.

Dance Odyssey competition continues through Sunday, Humanities Theatre.

Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry annual general meeting 1:00 p.m., CEIT room 1015, followed by seminar, “Small Contributions to the Emerging Field of Sulfenic Acid Anion Chemistry”, by Adrian Schwan, University of Guelph, 3:00, then graduate student poster session and awards presentations.

‘The Algorithmic Lens: How the Computational Perspective Is Transforming the Sciences’, Christos Papadimitriou, University of California at Berkeley, 2:00, Davis Centre room 1350.

Philosophy colloquium: Doreen Fraser, “The Applicability of Mathematics and A Priori Knowledge”, 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Travelling exhibition: “Aga Khan Historic Cities Program”, Architecture building, Cambridge, Saturday through Monday.

Going Green workshop series sponsored by Grand House student co-op: “Making Concrete Countertops” April 26, “Black Water, Grey Water and Living Machines” May 3, “Natural Landscaping” May 10, details online.

Engineering alumni Rick Matzeg Memorial Event, Saturday 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Luther Village, details online.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term is April 28 (cheque, money order, promissory note) or May 1 (bank payment or international wire transfer), details online.

Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research presents Shirley Fenton, managing director of WIHIR, “Trade Missions: A Framework for Initiating Multinational Collaboration”, Monday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1304.

Fire drills on main campus Tuesday: 8:30 to 10:15 at HS, Optometry, PAC, BMH, Tatham, SCH, PAS HH, ML and NH; 10:15 to 11:45 at CEIT, Physics, ESC, B1, B2, C2, GSC, Commissary, ECH and Davis; 1:30 to 2:00 at E2 and E3.

‘Financing and Purchasing a Vehicle’ seminar sponsored by Education Credit Union, speaker Tony Verbeek, Tuesday 12:15 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

UW Alternative Fuels Team “Ride Green, Drive Clean” demonstration Wednesday 9:00 to 6:00, Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto, keynote speakers 11:00, opportunity to drive AFT vehicle on a test track, details online.

Internet outage: interruption in external network connections to UW, Wednesday 7:00 to 8:00 a.m., to install new border router.

‘Cinema and Social Change in Germany and Austria’ conference hosted by Germanic and Slavic studies department, May 1-3, details online; “Kinofest: New Films from Germany and Austria” festival begins April 30 at Princess Cinema.

Military History Colloquium hosted by UW department of history, May 1-3, including public lecture by Michael Neiberg, University of Southern Mississippi, “The Second Battle of the Marne: Turning Point of 1918”, full schedule online.

‘The (Long) Tail of Waterloo Region’ leadership conference sponsored by Communitech, Thursday, May 1, details and registration online.

Graduate Student Association reception for graduate students to meet new GSA executive, Monday, May 5, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., Graduate House.

Book Club meeting at UW bookstore, to discuss Philippa Gregory’s The Boleyn Inheritance, Wednesday, May 14, 12:00, details online.

Spring Gardening ‘tips and tales’ with David Hobson, local garden columnist, presented by Employee Assistance Program, Thursday, May 15, 12:00 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

One click away

Feds and GSA survey UW students about health and dental plan
New Brunswick panel gets advice on Waterloo entrepreneurship
Balsillie proposal for law school is under review
UW researcher helping save South African wetlands
Dismissed coach looking for her next basketball job
Makeover of UBC's oldest building
Calgary research funds may have influenced election
Laurentian U to get an acting presidentCurrent president moving to Concordia
Changed federal rules on work permits for international students
Size of business sectors in Waterloo Region, and volume of exports
The greening of Canadian universities

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin