‘Small in size but great in our ambition’ is the slogan that aptly sums up the Al Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee, Scotland.
Funded primarily by the late Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who was Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance, through the Al-Maktoum Foundation, the college is an eye-opener to students and visitors.
I had the privilege of first visiting this amazing haven for post-graduate education sometime during the early 2000s. I was a guest at the graduation ceremony of a Summer batch attended by girls from around the UAE’s many colleges, Malaysia, Indonesia and Bahrain.
High-quality learning with multicultural perspective
Formerly known as the Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, the college was established in 2001, under the chairmanship of Mirza Al Sayegh, Director of Sheikh Hamdan’s Office and Chancellor Lord Murray Elder, a delightful character who looks like a character from the Harry Potter series.
Tucked away in a quiet side of the seaside town of Dundee, the historic college is located close to the City Centre, Abertay University and the University of Dundee. It can easily be accessed by students who live in the neighbouring town, faculty or visitors.
Upon entering past its giant oak doors, you arrive at the foyer and reception area and is at once taken in by its inspiring, relaxing and friendly ambience, something that stands it out from other colleges.
One of the first rooms you will encounter is the large Sheikh Hamdan reading library, housed next to a guest room. I saw several students poring over books and making notes as they read Islamic and world history.
Besides the library, the college provides everything students may need during their course. I discovered the Shaikh Maktoum Gardens, IT suite, Student Hub and Common Room containing a TV, seating, and vending machines during my tour.
One of the unique education features was that the college offered personalised, face-to-face teaching.
There was so much to like about the place and its ambience, and it catapulted me back in time to my school and college days, bringing back wonderful memories of learning history, geography, science or mathematics.
My host was College Director Dr Abu Bakr Jaber, who wears lightly the challenging role of running a campus where a multicultural perspective enriches the high-quality teaching and learning to help broaden students’ minds and prepare them for a future workplace.
I saw girls from different communities and understood that this was a place that truly surpassed background or ethnicity. Its aim was to grow leaders, something that was also close to Sheikh Hamdan’s heart and fuelled his desire to invest in promoting education to Arab girls in particular, not just in Scotland but also in the UAE.
The college focuses on education through academic, technical and customised programmes recognised by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).
One of its principal aims is to build bridges between western and Muslim communities, which was evident from my tour, the first of many that I would enjoy over the years.
For a positive change in societies
The college also endeavours to develop the next generation of professionals and scholars, both from the Emirates and other Muslim countries and while engaging with students from Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or Dubai
While interacting with some students, I discovered that most thought differently and were working towards a positive change within their societies and communities.
Since its founding in 2001, the college has seen students from over 30 different nationalities graduate through its stylised and contemporary courses, which offer Higher National Certificate and Diploma (HNC/D) qualifications.
Furthermore, the college is in partnership with the University of Dundee in launching Scotland’s first Master’s degree in Islamic Banking and Finance during the 2019/20 academic year.
Small in size but great in our ambition — is indeed the essence of the Al Maktoum College for Higher Education in Scotland.