President Professor Al Alkim has initiated and led several key administrative, academic, and infrastructure developments at AURAK since assuming the presidency. These include key personnel appointments, institutional reforms, and new state-of-the art facilities.
1. KEY APPOINTMENTS
Professor Al Alkim understands that to transform AURAK into an excellent university, instilling high quality talent in its leaders, faculty, and staff is critical. As a visionary leader, Professor Al Alkim has ensured that AURAK attracts and retains exceptional talent. Talent sourcing, development, and retention are imperatives he embraces and executes. In this respect, he has been successful in recruiting talented and distinguished vice presidents, advisors, deans, directors, full-time and visiting professors, and managers to support him in the quest for excellence.
2. INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
A change champion, Professor Al Alkim has led AURAK through several academic governance, institutional effectiveness, reputational, and organizational reforms during his tenure.
When Professor Al Alkim was first appointed, he recognized the need for board and committee governance changes to ensure that there was a mutually beneficial relationship between the governing board and administration of the university. His recommendations led to a board reform process that delinked the governance model from direct supervision by the Ruler’s office to ensure pursuit of a corporate governance system that is in alignment with best practices for higher education institutions. Professor Al Alkim also established several administrative and academic committees to support a decentralized decision-making process involving faculty and staff. Many of these committees have contributed greatly to AURAK’s reputation and success.
Recognizing the need for developing a culture of continuous improvement and accreditation at AURAK, Professor Al Alkim led the establishment of quality assurance, institutional effectiveness, and accreditation management practices at AURAK that have now become part of the institutional culture. After having initially established the Institutional Research Office (later Institutional Effectiveness and Research Office) to support the advancement of IE best practices across the university, in 2015 Professor Al Alkim further established a quality assurance division headed by a Vice President that engaged all operational units and programs in planning, assessment, policy compliance, performance improvement and national and international institutional and programmatic accreditation.
Recognition and Rankings
Professor Al Alkim passionately desires to see AURAK’s excellence recognized by its regulators, accreditors, employers of its graduates, other universities, and the community at large. In this regard, as President, he challenged the Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, and staff to work diligently towards institutional accreditation with SACSCOC and achieve high rankings at the national and regional levels through QS. In 2018, Professor Al Alkim appointed a committee to study measures for improving the ranking of AURAK within the region and internationally and make appropriate recommendations. Through him, AURAK applied for SACSCOC membership in 2014 and for four years entertained two visits by the Candidacy Committee and then the Accreditation Committee of SACSCOC. AURAK attained initial accreditation and membership with SACSCOC on December 11, 2018 as a level III institution. This undertaking provided the university with several opportunities for benchmarking its operations with SACSCOC-accredited US universities and facilitate overall change and improvement to become a more effective organization. Led by the President, university stakeholders worked diligently to support him in this process of improvement.
When Professor Al Alkim assumed duties in August 2011, AURAK was a fledgling university with 189 students and 20 faculty and staff programs. He envisioned AURAK as becoming a pioneer in higher education within Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE and the GCC region. Inspired by this philosophy, the RAK government, through the Ruler’s office, resourced the university to grow its assets, including its human resource capacity. Today, AURAK has 104 faculty and 147 staff placed in 30 administrative and academic units in four divisions. Throughout the past seven years, Professor Al Alkim has led the institution through organizational changes to grow its capacity in order to fulfil the 2014-2019 Strategic Plan. While Professor Al Alkim leads the university through its strategic planning process, effective January 14, 2019, he is also leading it through an organizational restructuring exercise, which guarantees greater coherence in an organizational design with streamlined operations that serve its constituents and stakeholders to meet and surpass their expectations while maintaining efficiency in cost, resources, and processes.
3. ACADEMIC INITIATIVES
While the university has developed and received initial accreditation from the CAA for its 22 programs, AURAK has evolved over time to seek further international accreditation by well-recognized specialized accreditation bodies.
In 2016, the School of Engineering applied for accreditation of three of its programs (civil, computer and electronics, and communications engineering) from ABET and later again in 2017 three further applications for an additional three of its programs (industrial and mechanical engineering and computer science) were submitted. As of today, AURAK has obtained ABET accreditation for all six of these engineering programs.
In 2016, the School of Business received confirmation of its membership with AACSB and has since been preparing to finalize its self-study for accreditation with AACSB.
4. INSPIRED AND IMPACTFUL RESEARCH
Professor Al Alkim believes that an excellent university should place prime emphasis on academic and sponsored research that will impact society through advancing knowledge that addresses real-world issues and sparks further intellectual curiosity. Under him and with the leadership of the Provost and the deans, the faculty have embraced this emphasis on research and have worked steadfastly and creatively to position AURAK as 12th in research among the 103 UAE affiliated institutions with Scopus. AURAK’s Research Strategy serves to:
- Promote environmentally sustainable processes and practices and development that foster livable communities and healthy environments involving the School of Engineering and the Ras Al Khaimah Research and Innovation Center (RAKRIC);
- Provide research expertise to local and regional planning and development authorities to support them as they promote environmental stability and integrity involving all schools, RAKRIC and ICONET.
As a result, AURAK has had pioneering research in several disciplines that has served the emirate, nation, and region. For example, within 2017-2018 alone, AURAK faculty have produced 102 peer reviewed articles and two book chapters, presented 53 papers in scholarly conferences and five faculty research colloquia, received 15 seed grants for research and engaged in external research projects in a range of scholarly topics that serve to enlighten society and improve education, industry, and commerce. Funded research projects include collaboration with the UAE Space Agency and the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.
5. NEW FACILITIES
AURAK has an enclosed campus within scenic Ras Al Khaimah. The campus’s modern architecture, beautiful landscaping, and sporting and recreational facilities are located on a property of 122,560.50 square meters. Over the period of his Presidency, Professor Al Alkim has successfully established new facilities using resources raised from the Government of Ras Al Khaimah and donors. In addition, three new initiatives were introduced in 2019.
- The School of Engineering Building occupies a three-story building equipped with offices, laboratories, classrooms, student lounges, cafeteria, auditorium, and general use rooms with high quality equipment and resources for student learning and faculty use;
- The recently launched RAK Bank School of Business now occupies a three-story state-of-the-art building (17659.2 square feet). The building houses classroom facilities, faculty and administrative offices, and general use spaces. It also contains research facilities for students and faculty such as a finance laboratory and trading room to support current educational and business trends in preparing students to be successful in the twenty-first century business environment;
- Administration Building 2, a new two-story building with total space of 6,458.4 square feet has been designed and equipped to house staff in the Administrative Affairs Division beginning in early 2019;
- Saqr Library, which is located on the ground floor of Building A, includes the library stacks, a reading area, user cubicles for group and individual use, staff work areas, a computer laboratory for library applications, a conference room, and a spacious reading area equipped with sixteen individual study rooms and two group study rooms;
- Parking access includes free parking spaces for faculty, staff, students, and university visitors. Approximately 603 parking spaces are allocated for students, faculty, staff, and guest/visitor’s use at various locations on the campus;
- New laboratories serve a variety of disciplines, including computer science, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, and specialized engineering (including petroleum) fields;
- The University Mosque is located inside the campus between Building A and Building B is a resource for students, faculty, and staff;
- Architectural plans have been designed for the new School of Arts and Sciences building that is soon to be constructed.
6. OUTREACH AND EXTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS
Professor Al Alkim believes that building solid, external partnerships and relationships helps leverage AURAK’s resource base and engagement whilst contributing to the reputational advancement of the university. Over his tenure, Professor Al Alkim has supported key outreach activities and building external relationships within the UAE, the Gulf region, and other international locations.
President Al Alkim has facilitated development of academic partnerships and agreements with other universities, government entities and private corporations. During his tenure, AURAK has signed over 120 academic and administrative agreements, and a recent review has attempted to streamline these arrangements to ensure efficient resource management and effective coordination of activities for productive outcomes.
As a show of exemplary leadership, Professor Al Alkim has championed and encouraged the AURAK family to participate in and support sporting events and competitions such as soccer, cricket, basketball etc. He has himself attended several of these events both out of personal interest and to inspire students, faculty, and staff to support these ventures.
At the local level, Professor Al Alkim has supported the Ras Al Khaimah Government and sought partnerships with it through attendance at conferences and strategic meetings with Ministry of Health, RAK Police, the Ruler’s office and other state entities.
The President has engaged potential university investors, grant donors and sponsors for seed grants, and building investments such as the Al Nuami Group, Al Shrooq Green Energy, the UAE Space Agency, RAK Bank, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority and Huawei Technology Corporation.
Since becoming President, Professor Al Alkim has frequently met with review teams from local and international regulatory bodies such as Ministry of Education, the CAA, ABET, AACSB and SACSCOC to present AURAK’s leadership perspectives and plans in relation to licensure and accreditation standards and visits.