University of Birmingham Dubai tackles big ideas and future of work

Panel discussion at the University of Birmingham Dubai

Leading voices from education, finance and world affairs joined the University of Birmingham Dubai to close its inaugural welcome week with a discussion on the future of employment in the emirate.

Panellists offered expert insight into how industries will prepare for the fundamental technological and social changes ahead, as the University hosted the Future of Work Panel Discussion and Networking Event on Sunday at its state-of-the-art campus in Dubai International Academic City.

The panel comprised of: British journalist, TV and radio presenter Tom Urquhart; Director of KONE Middle East Ghada Othman; Principal of Hartland International School Fiona Cottam; and Professor John Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography from the Department of Strategy and International Business at University of Birmingham.

Attendees had the opportunity to network with panelists, members of the Dubai business community and the University’s pioneer postgraduate students, who are developing their expertise within education, computer science and international business.

The University opened its doors to students this week – the first elite UK Russell Group university to open a campus in Dubai - and also launched its Dubai Big Ideas Challenge in partnership with Grant Thornton UAE - one of the world’s biggest professional services companies.

Working with Grant Thornton UAE to set students challenges of regional relevance, University leaders drew inspiration from the Area 2071 initiative that sets an ambitious vision for how the UAE will look in its centennial year.

Students received expert training and worked in multi-disciplinary teams over three days to solve their chosen challenge – in themes which included space exploration, water security and the application of artificial intelligence. They then pitched their solution to a panel consisting of senior Grant Thornton UAE staff, University careers and entrepreneurship advisors and academics. The winning pitch was delivered by Team PAWW (Prevention of a Water War).

The team comprised of Obaid Siddiqui and Ahmad Solanki (Mechanical Engineering Foundation) and Sam Rodriguez (Economics). They commented: “The Dubai Big Ideas Challenge has given exposure to pitching we feel more comfortable presenting our ideas. Working with Grant Thornton is a major step forward for us, the internships are going to help us develop our skills which will benefit us in our future careers.”

University staff in Dubai worked closely with two University of Birmingham alumni at Grant Thornton UAE - Director and Head of Forensics Ruth Button (BSc Accountancy 2004) and Director of Audit Robert Graham (BA Medieval and Modern History, 2005).

Professor Glyn Watson, Provost of the University of Birmingham Dubai, commented: “The world of work is undergoing significant changes and finding the right candidates for the job is harder than ever. The University of Birmingham Dubai is delighted to work with regional business representatives to explore the future of employment and how we can navigate this ever changing landscape.

“We drew inspiration for the Dubai Big Ideas Challenge from employers increasingly telling us that they require entrepreneurial skills in our graduates - the future is uncertain and developing fast; key technology enablers such as Artificial Intelligence, and global development goals, such as water security, are driving regional and commercial agendas.

“Our students will work in industries that don't exist yet in an ever changing landscape - entrepreneurial skills will help to future proof their careers and enable them to lead their organisations into the uncharted territory of the fourth industrial revolution.”

The Dubai Big Ideas Challenge is based on the successful B-Enterprising Boot Camp which is run in Birmingham during Global Entrepreneurship Week in November - offering the same quality of opportunity to Dubai students as those studying on the Edgbaston campus. 

The University of Birmingham Dubai offers degrees that will be taught, examined and accredited to the same high standards as those delivered on its UK campus and are approved by The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).


For further information, please contact Samantha Dancy, Footstep Communications on 055 5711006.

Notes to Editors

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

  • The University is renowned for its research excellence and its researchers have received 11 Nobel Prizes. From pioneering organ transplants, discovering gravitational waves and furthering understanding of Shakespeare, to developing cures for cancer, advances in robotics and revealing the structure of DNA, the University has been at the forefront of some of the most ground-breaking discoveries of the last 100 years.

  • Birmingham is acknowledged for producing globally employable graduates and was chosen as the Times and Sunday Times University of the Year for Graduate Employment 2016. It is the second most frequently targeted UK university for the top employers looking for graduate recruits, according to High Fliers Research.
  • Opening its Dubai campus marks the latest phase in the University of Birmingham’s global ambition – building on the University’s international teaching activities in Singapore and China, and its extensive international research collaborations.
  • The University of Birmingham international community is made up of more than 300,000 alumni.
  • The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector.

About the panellists

  • Tom Urquhart is an international British journalist, television and radio presenter. Tom regularly appears on Dubai Eye 103.8 and has been listed in the top 50 most influential Brits in the UAE. Tom fronted Dubai One’s flagship show Studio One and presented the reality show The Entrepreneur. Tom will spark lively discussions around the future of work within the context of broadcast media and current affairs.
  • Ghada Othman is Director of KONE Middle East, Egyptian born; she is a specialist in leading growth and profitability. Ghada has partnered CEO’s, Managing Director’s and their senior leadership teams across 25 countries to create strategies that increase profitability. Director of INSEAD Women in Business Club, she started a mission to develop the skill-set of 1 million women in business. Expect Ghada to talk about how the changes within the world of work, will impact women in business.
  • Fiona Cottam is a Principal of Hartland International School. She has extensive experience within GEMS as Senior Vice President of Schools and Director of International Schools. Fiona has managed Principals of 23 international schools in the region and offers valuable insight into why we should embrace a change in education to prepare the next generation for the future of work.
  • Carlos Tibi is a Founder and CEO of the successful global start-up company Icflix which has been labelled by Forbes as the Arabic equivalent to Netflix. Palestinian- Canadian Carlos has led multi-national projects for Fortune 500 customers across the U.S, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. Expect to hear Carlos’s point of view on what the future of work looks like for an entrepreneur and those involved with multinational business.