ACK hosts a virtual workshop in coordination with Kuwait Industries Union

The Health and Safety Department at ACK coordinated with the Kuwait Industries Union (KIU) to deliver a virtual training course titled “Health and Safety at the Workplace.” The course has been delivered virtually within “The Industrials” project by KIU, it aimed to train and qualify fresh graduates to work within the industrial sector, and equip them with a variety of tools and skills in different areas relevant to the sector, in addition to health and safety knowledge. The course covered various aspects of health and safety that are essential for industrial sector employees. The training encompassed background on workplace health and safety laws, regulations governing workplace health and safety, elements of a successful health and safety program at work, and it helped fresh graduates to learn basic tools and mechanisms to identify workplace risks and hazards. At last, the program also proposed control measures to lower the risk of identified hazards in accordance to the hierarchy of control pyramid. Overall, 60 delegates attended the virtual training program. Ms. Mariam Al Maraghi, Health and Safety Manager at ACK, highlighted the importance of health and safety protocols to ACK as an organization and stressed on its efforts to spread awareness for the benefit of the society as a whole. She added: “As a College, it is both our moral duty and aim to increase awareness amongst Kuwait’s society. Our philosophy has always been to enable human potential within a culture of care. We will do what we can to help imprint a positive health and safety culture into Kuwait’s workplace community”.

An interview with the Chairman of ACK

Prelude:

Established initially to grant Diploma Degrees based on two-year programs, ACK evolved over the years into an institution with strategic international ties, fulfilling regulatory and academic accrediting requirements and offering Diploma and Bachelor programs in Engineering, Business, and Aviation.

ACK’s mission has always been to fulfill its strategic direction of graduating capable lifelong learners and engaged professionals who can contribute to Kuwait’s socioeconomic and national development plan associated with the New Kuwait 2035 Vision.

We enable human potential within a culture of care that provides students with academic and career advice, learning support, employment and internship opportunities and access to continuous learning and professional development options.

ACK adheres to UNESCO’s six pillars of education which are as follows: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be, learning to live together, learning to get employed and learning to transform. We believe that an individual’s acquisition of new knowledge and skills is heavily influenced and supported by the social environment in which the learning occurs. We view learning as an active and social process.


Questions & Answers:

What are some of the lessons learned from this pandemic?

Without a doubt, this pandemic has created great challenges for us all. However, no matter how difficult, one must look at them as opportunities for adaptation, learning, and discovery.

From a higher education perspective, we have learned the importance of resilience, agility and adaptability.

One of the significant steps we took at the Australian College of Kuwait during the pandemic was to review our study programmes to ensure that our post covid graduates have the necessary transferrable skills that will allow them to succeed in unprecedented times.

The pandemic also led to increased sharing of knowledge via joint research projects among colleges and universities.

New tools and mechanisms to disseminate knowledge effectively, are called for.

We do not know the long term impact of the pandemic. To ensure that our programs of study meet the needs of the industry and workforce, we need to diversify our offerings and implement an approach based on ‘research-informed teaching’.

We should embrace the digital transformations that resulted from this pandemic. The higher education sector must invest in optimizing its digital infrastructure. Distance Learning/E-learning and blended learning are the future.

Could you expand on this notion and explain what are the measures adopted by ACK in this regard?

The importance of being connected has never been clearer. The activities of universities in research, innovation, and education are designed to increase the capacity to exchange knowledge. During the crisis, many universities worked closely together to learn from and help one another navigate new realities.

When international research projects came to a sudden halt during lockdown periods, universities found creative ways to continue their collaborations.

As a higher education institution, we must always ask ourselves, are we effectively exchanging knowledge with the right partners? Industry? Society?

We are proud that we have built a diverse network of international partners that provide our faculty with opportunities to conduct joint research on a global scale.

We collaborate with local institutions such as the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS) and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), and internationally we work closely with Central Queensland University (CQUniversity) in Australia. In addition, we are also engaged in research projects in Canada, and Europe.

Through our partnerships, we generate a global mindset for our students and graduates to prepare them to continue their studies with our international partner in Australia and other universities.

With the pandemic’s effect taken into consideration, how was the design and development of the strategy impacted?

The 2020-2025 Strategic Plan provides a clear roadmap to achieve our vision. It aims to position ACK as a national and regional leading higher education institution in teaching, learning, research, and innovation while remaining true to our core value of ‘Enabling Human Potential within a Cultural of Care’.

We have fine-tuned ACK’s strategic direction to accommodate the rapidly evolving needs and challenges of industry. ‘Excellence in Making a Difference’ will be ACK’s motto for the next five years. Our strategy includes the following:

  • Adding programs of study that meet the demands and skills of the workplace;
  • Evolving teaching and learning to meet the needs of our students through innovative pedagogy;
  • Fostering competencies of leadership and entrepreneurship;
  • Investing further in the College’s infrastructure and technical teaching tools;
  • Strengthening the College’s relationship with industry and exchanging knowledge; and
  • Contributing to sustainable development through research and innovation that will address national priorities.

As a higher education provider, what education model and supportive ecosystem have you developed to ensure collaboration with the different sectors of industry?

By aligning our learning outcomes to needs of the job market, our role is critical in closing the skills gap facing the industry. We work closely with industry on several levels and we conduct joint research that addresses their need to optimize productivity.

Our students also work in teams and/or individually to research an industry or a business issue and then proceed to develop strategies, processes, and products as solutions. All students are required to research and present a major graduation project to demonstrate the synthesis of individual aspects of learning during their studies and apply this to an approved workplace project or challenge. Upon completion, these projects are exhibited as innovative solutions to everyday issues facing industry. Industry in turn, has successfully adopted the outcomes of several of our graduation projects.

To develop their projects, students are encouraged to connect with local businesses and research organizations. In many instances, this has led to further research and employment. Our students are also engaged in internships and work placements in industry as part of their studies.

ACK has established an Industrial Advisory Board at different levels (College and School). The Board comprises industry professionals from the private and government sectors who provide strategic advice on areas of research, development, and curricula. Such alliances ensure that ACK delivers industry-required skills and produces research that is beneficial to the development of the economy and society.

At ACK we are also strong advocates of lifelong learning and provide ongoing education for industry professionals through our Corporate Training Center.

How does ACK endeavor to support its graduates and alumni?

In general, Arab countries have been seeking to transition from resource-based to knowledge-based economies and have been diversifying and expanding their base of human capital skills.

An example that demonstrates the adoption of important steps toward this end is the national strategy adopted by the State of Kuwait, namely, the ‘New Kuwait Vision 2035.’ The plan aims to transform the country into a regional, financial, commercial, and cultural hub. The Vision is organized around seven pillars: global positioning, developed infrastructure, creative human capital, effective public administration, high quality healthcare, diversified economy, and sustainable environment.

One of the seven pillars identifies investment in human capital; another identifies economic diversification as a crucial element to reducing the country’s dependence on oil export revenue. The Vision seeks to reform the education system to prepare Kuwaitis to become competitive and productive members of the workforce.

We have established an Alumni and Career Placement Center to support our graduates and as part of our commitment to lifelong learning by establishing connections with alumni in the workplace, the Center was able to build partnerships with leading companies from the private and public sectors.

Through an integrated leadership that joins the schools of Business and Engineering, we established the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, to encourage and support novice entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are essential to economic growth, diversification and job creation. Our pedagogy serves to transfer practical knowledge and develop skills that facilitate the work of entrepreneurs.

We organize an annual exhibition where entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to showcase their businesses and start-ups.

What is the future of distance learning/e-learning in the Arab higher education sector post Covid?

Distance Learning/E-learning is here to stay. This is a new transition that we must embrace and accept.

It is also a cultural transition within the Arab region as E-learning has not been widely implemented in this part of the world. The pandemic managed to expedite what was already a long time coming.

ACK has always been a strong supporter of this mode of learning. In fact, in September 2019, before the pandemic, the College organized an international seminar with the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences on the importance of introducing E-learning in the Arab region. Prominent local, regional, and international academics were invited to contribute.

We support the continuation of E-learning even after the pandemic has passed,

The College’s experience in the last few months of implementing E-learning has been very successful. Open communication channels and transparency were key in the successful implementation of E-learning. Through tutorials, students were supported in their transition to online learning. They were assigned academic advisors and the Department of Student Affairs provided counseling.

Through E-learning, education and assessments have become closer to real life. Students studying from home acquire a range of skills that will allow them to be productive, disciplined, motivated and organised. These skills are very important as they navigate their way through a dynamic and thoroughly transformed workforce.

which includes cyber-physical systems, the internet, cloud and cognitive computing?

Industry 4.0 requires us to have transferrable skills. This sums up ACK’s education objectives, namely, ensuring its graduates possess a range of ‘transferrable skills’.

21st Century skills require students to be thoughtful leaders, learn how to collaborate, solve problems, think analytically and critically, be creative, have high levels of digital literacy, be adaptable, resilient and agile, work in team-settings, think like entrepreneurs, be culturally aware and act as global citizens.

Through our student-centered pedagogy and project-based learning, all these skills are taught and sharpened.

Our pedagogical approach also implements the Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate (CDIO) criteria, which emphasize the students’

What is the role of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) at ACK? And how is it used in the processes of knowledge creation, management and dissemination?

As I stated earlier, one of the most important lessons we have learnt in this pandemic is that the higher education sector needs to invest heavily in ICT infrastructure. Technology is the present and the future and we must channel our resources in that direction.

When the pandemic began, ACK was able to easily switch to emergency remote teaching through its robust ICT infrastructure.

ICT is integrated into all of ACK’s activities, and we continuously update our digital resources to ensure we are using state-of-the-art technology. For instance, we have virtual labs that allow students to virtually simulate lab work.

In research, ICT is core in sharing and exchanging knowledge. Our scholars are able to conduct joint research projects with faculty around the world.

ICT also serves as a tool for collaborative learning as it is integrated into every aspect of ACK’s academic pillars, from teaching/learning to assessments and evaluation.

What long term impacts can be expected on the higher education sector in Kuwait following the pandemic? Post Covid shock, what is ACK doing to build resilience?

We are beginning to understand the real impact of the pandemic. Like other sectors, the higher education sector took a big hit.

When the world went into lockdown, campuses stood empty, halls of residence were evacuated and student enrollment dropped. Suddenly, many universities and colleges were left struggling financially and had to restructure and explore new sources of income.

Kuwait has a robust higher education sector. It responded quickly to COVID-19 and was able to shift to E-learning within a relatively short time.

As Kuwait is already expanding its higher education sector with more universities and colleges entering the landscape, the goal is to ensure that these institutions offer skills that are relevant in the post COVID era.

As higher education institutions, we must take into account national strategies; increase our appetite for interdisciplinary research; design a systematic approach to knowledge development; network efficiently and effectively, and develop our ICT infrastructure. All of these are essential.

At ACK, we believe resilience is the key to growth in the next few years. We are navigating uncertain times, and we have adapted our strategy to become more agile and resilient.

We have developed our study programs to ensure that our graduates have all the necessary skills to navigate this new environment. We are expanding our networking and collaboration platforms, locally and internationally. We plan to expand our offerings to include a range of new programs that will meet the market’s needs.

We have integrated research into all of our programs of study. Through our Scientific Research Center, our faculty are engaged in research projects that meet the nation’s needs and make an impact within our society.

Kuwait has many technologically savvy young people, and with the right national and institutional strategies, the higher education sector can emerge from this pandemic stronger than before.

Now, more than ever, we must focus on the notion of ‘leadership development’ to ensure our students are prepared to deal with the challenges of these difficult times.

Through ACK’s programs of study, we aim to develop behavioral competencies. We instill a leadership mindset and skills through our Project Based Learning courses, Research Based Learning, internships, and graduation projects. Our mentoring environment paves the way for integrating programs to ensure students gain a wide range of skills and competencies.

Our innovative pedagogy and activities are geared toward ensuring our students develop leadership competencies. We have ensured that our programs are co-created with industry and accredited by the relevant bodies so that they are aligned with the labor market and produce graduates that have the competencies and skills required by the workforce. For instance, our engineering programs are accredited by Engineers Australia, the School of Business is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools (ACBSP) and the School of Aviation programs are accredited by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and are approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), and the General Civil Aviation Authority of United Arab Emirates (GCAA).

Effective leaders are thoughtful, humble, inspired, committed, and articulate. We want our graduates to make a difference in the world but at the same time remain true to themselves.

ACK Strengthens Renewed Strategic Partnership with Central Queensland University, Australia

 
ACK has renewed its Strategic Partnership Agreement for a further five years with long-standing international partner, Central Queensland University Australia (CQU), to continue facilitating excellence in teaching and learning, collaborative research, international mobility and a range of additional joint initiatives

Academic Affairs

Strategic partners since 2015, Central Queensland University will continue to endorse all of ACK’s Diploma and Bachelor Degree programs, and ensure teaching and learning excellence and continuous improvement in line with international standards is maintained with regular academic audit visits to ACK. Opportunities for joint curriculum development and joint programs may also be explored in the future.

Research

The renewed agreement will also continue to build on a range of joint research projects across the priority disciplines of engineering and business, and will be overseen by the ACK CQU Joint Research Committee that was established in 2016 to develop a research agenda and promote collaborative research activities between the two institutions. A number of research projects that focus on aligned research priorities for both Kuwait and Australia, are currently underway.

International Mobility

Encouraging continued cultural exchange and networking, international mobility will play an important role, enabling academic faculty to undertake teaching or research activities at the partner’s institution. Additionally, ACK students will directly benefit from the partnership by having the opportunity to participate in the annual Australia Summer Tour that includes a visit to CQUniversity or consider a student exchange program for one semester at Central Queensland University.

Joint Initiatives

Further enhancing the scope of collaboration, the two institutions will also share international best practice knowledge and resources in a range of academic and administrative areas and explore potential for future joint initiatives.

Professor Isam Zabalawi, President of ACK stated, “Our partnership with CQUniversity is a continuous process that grows stronger each year, as we dedicate ourselves for a noble cause”.

ACK is proud of the opportunity to renew and enhance its partnership with Central Queensland University, to encourage education and research excellence, support internationalization, and bridge cultural relations and shared national interests between Australia and Kuwait.

The Australian College of Kuwait Students at the Forefront of Research

ACK has proudly celebrated the outstanding performance of its students who have successfully published 20 scientific research papers in scientific journals and 13 conference papers. In addition, they have also attended and participated in local and international conferences. There are many benefits for undergraduate students when engaged in research. Research experience helps undergraduate students to better recognize and decide on a career path. Through exposure to research as undergraduates, students realize their passion for research and go on to graduate studies and faculty positions.

Research with impact is a critical strategic pillar within ACK. The College has created an ecosystem that fosters research and development. Through focusing on the needs of the nation and engaging the community, the College was able to make an impact through its research.

Since 2015, ACK’s senior engineering students have published 33 scientific papers in the disciplines offered by the College: Mechanical, Civil, Petroleum and Electrical Engineering.

Through ACK’s student-centered approach that mixes theory with practical learning, students are able to think critically and analytically.

ACK has aligned its research and teaching to suit students’ development. The Project Based Learning pedagogy adopted by the College allows students to work in teams and/or individually to research an industry or business issue, then proceed to develop strategies, processes and products as solutions.

Students are also encouraged to become co-researchers with faculty on numerous research projects, allowing them to experience firsthand the translation of theoretical work into applied research.

Commenting on this success, the Vice President of Academic Affairs, Professor Hussain Abdullah, stated: “Active engagement of students in the learning process is essential. At ACK, we engage students in meaningful discussions, encourage teamwork and integrate learning inside and outside the classroom. We prepare our students to become lifelong learners and give them the tools that will allow them to become resilient, adaptable and agile”.

From her end, ACK’s Bachelor of Engineering Technology (Mechanical) Alumna Eng. Mashael Al-Shemmary stated on her research experience as she worked on capstone project entitled “Design and Implementation of Vertical Axis Wind Turbine on Highways” supervised by Dr. Ehab Bani-Hani “The project was interesting and unique in Kuwait, despite the challenges that we faced during various stages of the project, we felt proud when our work received recognition through its publication in an international journal. This achievement and the first-time experience in research and publications gave me the motivation to pursue my graduate studies and to start a career in an academic pathway”.

Dr. Ehab, a faculty member in the Mechanical Engineering Department, was proud of his students’ achievements. A total number of 8 journal papers were published in international journals related to capstone projects.