The first semester of the academic year 2020/2021 commenced today at the Khorfakkan campus of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Sharjah (AASTS) using ‘blended learning,’ which combines both classroom lectures and distance learning. The move supports the Academy’s strategy to empower the Arab maritime sector with academically and professionally qualified personnel.
AASTS continues to implement all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The academy has informed students about the new approach for their theoretical and practical learning and has held induction programmes for new students. Students and staff visiting the will be required to take COVID-19 test and comply with all the measures and recommendations set by competent authorities.
Dr. Ismail Abdel Ghaffar Ismail Farag, President of the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport, said: “Since March 2020, higher education institutions around the world have been facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were keen to continue the education process effectively and efficiently as part of our corporate social responsibility to protect the accomplishments made since the beginning of the crisis. All efforts should be combined to contain and overcome this crisis and support the sustainable development of all sectors. Since the beginning, the UAE has showcased great professionalism while dealing with this crisis, with everyone doing his or her part. At the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Sharjah, we have enhanced our smart learning channels to ensure that our students receive the same quality of education as our traditional education. We succeeded in implementing distance learning in a record period to enhance the safety of our students and faculty members, in line with the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the Corona virus.”
Abdel Ghaffar added: “We have developed a plan to start the Fall semester for the 2020 academic year, taking into account the guidelines of the Ministry of Education and health authorities. The health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority. Our plan focuses on blended learning through three alternatives: on-campus lectures where faculty members and students meet face to face on campus in classrooms and dedicated labs; distance learning where the faculty gives online lectures; and Blended Lectures that combine both on-campus and online lectures.”
A milestone in the national maritime sector
Yousif Yacoub Al Mansouri, Director, Office of the Chairman for the Board of Trustees, AASTS, said: “Starting the first semester of the academic year 2020/20201 is a milestone in the Academy’s journey despite all the challenges we have faced. The college in Sharjah is the largest and most equipped so far, and is on a par with the most prestigious maritime and academic institutions in the world. We will continue our journey towards achieving the Academy’s vision and strategic objectives. The Academy will always be a source to provide academically-qualified professionals from among the UAE citizens and citizens of neighbouring countries, to meet the growing demand for national professionals in this vital sector, which is key to the region’s economy and maritime security. The Academy also enhances the environment for investment in the maritime sector in the region by providing continuous training for maritime companies’ staff and enabling academic partnerships with the maritime sector through specialised professionals. This will promote the Arab maritime economy as it will be supplied with advanced research and development capabilities.”
Al Mansouri added: “AASTS’ Sharjah branch provides unlimited opportunities for students looking for an education that guarantees them jobs in specialisations needed in the market after their graduation. They will get the highest salaries compared to other disciplines. Despite the fact that the Sharjah branch is relatively new, we were impressed by the exceptional turnout of students who registered at the Academy. This coincided with the launch of our website (www.aasts.ac.ae). Its unique design and smart services enable students to directly register and communicate with the Academy. The website is compatible with all devices such as computers, laptops and mobile phones.”
Out of hundreds of applicants, 50 students have been accepted at the Academy after passing the English language placement test and medical fitness tests. This brings the total number of students at the Academy to 170.
According to Dr. Ahmed Youssef, Associate Dean of the Maritime Transport and Technology College, AASTS, this is a reasonable number and is close to the target. Dr Youssef added, “The turnout of female students who enrolled in the Academy was remarkable. 20 female students have been accepted for the new academic year, bringing the total number of female students to 61. This is an indication of empowering Emirati women in the national maritime sector. Women work alongside men in building key economic and developmental capabilities in the region.”
The College of Maritime Transport and Technology currently offers two specialisations: Maritime Transport Technology, which has two disciplines; Port Operations and Offshore Operations. Graduates receive a bachelor's degree and certificate of a second officer. The second main specialisation is Marine Engineering. Graduates receive a bachelor's degree in Maritime Technology in addition to a third marine engineer certificate. Both disciplines qualify graduates to work on commercial and supply ships as well as petroleum service vessels. Graduates gain the necessary experience to work in all maritime organisations.
Youssef added: “AASTS seeks to attract professionals working in maritime organisations in the UAE who wish to attend specialised training courses as part of the Academy’s professional development and continuous educational programmes. It also provides maritime passport renewal services for maritime officers, engineers, and seafarers. AASTS also cooperates with the training departments of maritime companies to design specialised training programmes in various maritime, technical and administrative disciplines, benefitting from the Academy’s state-of-the-art simulators.”
Beyond academic excellence
Commenting on the academic environment at the college and the added value for students, Youssef said, “The Academy’s management realises that working in the maritime sector requires certain competencies. That’s why, we have designed a number of virtual activities alongside the academic programmes. This aims to make study and learning at the Academy a journey to build personality and give students incentives to excel and be creative. This extends beyond the limits of the typical study relationship with the Academy. Activities include virtual seminars with the government and private maritime sector, in addition to planned sports, recreational and art activities post the COVID-19 pandemic. These activities refine students’ personalities, develop their life experiences, and make their study years at the Academy useful for their careers as well as their personal and leadership capabilities.”