The Dubai perspective with Dr Cedwyn Fernandes

Pro-Vice Chancellor, Director, Middlesex University, Dubai campus


What do you see as the main strengths of the Dubai campus?

Our investment in our faculty is a major strength. We hire world class lecturers from all over the world, and it’s a fantastic, diverse mix of people. We also have a truly multicultural student cohort, representing around 115 nationalities, which exposes the students to a wide range of cultures.

Another key strength is our support for students from our Centre for Academic Success. One of the most important parts of this is our one-to-one learning disabilities support from specialist staff. We are called on to share our knowledge and experience in learning disabilities with other universities, which is something we are really proud of.

Next, is our goal of ‘100% employability’ for our students. It isn’t just a slogan, we make this happen by supporting students to achieve professional certifications and arranging volunteering opportunities and internships, whether this be through networking events and career days, or through the support of lecturers and the Careers and Employability Department.

How do you see the global impact and reputation of Middlesex University?

Developing branch campuses can be a tricky business and Middlesex Dubai is one of the largest and most successful UK campuses in the world. I’m often contacted by Vice-Chancellors from other universities wanting to discuss best practice.

One of our most important impacts has been to show how UK education can be successful in other parts of the world. We have opened up new markets in non-Commonwealth countries in the Far East and Latin America, where people aren’t as familiar with British education.

I believe our main contribution to the global stage comes from the fact we are a truly global university. Today’s citizen is a global citizen. Issues like sustainability and race relations affect us all. This idea of one world, one family, has been really brought to the fore during the pandemic.

How has the pandemic impacted on the Dubai campus and your students?

Dubai had a strict and sudden lockdown. We had to leave campus overnight, without time to prepare and without the technology and infrastructure we really needed to go fully online. It was a challenging time for staff and students.

But we got our classes up online in just three or four days and trained 200 staff to become savvy online lecturers. We made sure that students were supported and worked with all the teams in the UK faculties on adapting the assessments. It was good to see this cooperation. In the end, we had 95% attendance at online lectures and our progression rates and grades were better than last year.

Our staff were simply magnificent. Everyone went above and beyond requirements and we recognised this with our ‘Lockdown Hero’ awards.

How do you see Middlesex’s approach to research and knowledge transfer and its position in the world?

We’re an active research faculty, with leading areas including sustainable tourism, robotics, and the amalgamation of robotics with medical technology, economics as well as social cause issues.

We have a multidisciplinary research agenda. As a smaller faculty, we’re not isolated in different buildings and there’s a lot of collaboration

Much of our research agenda is driven by local needs. For example, a lot of existing management research is focused on Western models. We carried out a study recently on organisational justice and job satisfaction and those results will offer unique insight into people’s attitudes and reactions specifically in our region.

Industry research groups are a key strategic partner for the future. The UAE currently has a small and nascent research culture. At Middlesex we have MDX Insights, a data analytics centre, where we invite any company, mainly in the region, to give us anonymized data for our students to analyse and share results. It’s a platform for students and businesses to work together. For example, we are working on domestic violence research, using virtual reality. We will hopefully be working with the Dubai Police using this research to try and change behaviour and reduce abuse.

How does your campus engage and build relationships with partners and stakeholders?

Industry are important stakeholders for us in Dubai because they provide employment options, so we make sure businesses have plenty of opportunities to interact with our students and our staff. We have agreements with professional bodies – for example, we are one of the few in the Middle East to become an accredited study centre of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

We also dovetail into the UAE government’s agenda. Some important challenges at the moment include: artificial intelligence, sustainability and supply chain management, as well as inclusivity. By working closely with government, Middlesex’s Dubai campus is able to play a full role in the UAE. It also supports employability for our students. For example, the government decided to focus on being the design and fashion capital in this part of the world. So we played our role in this by introducing a fashion and design programme and encouraging students to study here.

Our campus has a dual responsibility. We represent Middlesex University, that’s a given, but as part of a UK university we also represent the UK. Dubai has an important relationship with the UK. So it’s much bigger than us being just a branch campus, there are other important links.

What are your thoughts on the culture and ways of working we need at Middlesex to meet the needs of the coming decade and beyond?

At Middlesex, we have no boundaries between teaching and non-teaching staff. Everybody’s role and opinion is equally important. We get everybody involved in the decision-making. We work in a very cohesive way, and we’re proud of that and it’s a key strength.

For me, the number one thing is getting your base right and for me that’s teaching and the syllabus you’re delivering. The syllabus must be really contemporary, constantly upgraded, and always focused on students’ needs. We also owe it to our students to give them a first-class education and the full university experience. Students may only get one shot at university life, so we have to make sure they get the best experience in all areas and I think there’s more we can do to collaborate across all of Middlesex’s campuses to support this.

Our process

Four key phases to developing our new strategy:


  1. Ideas generation, visioning and planning for the development of the consultation website and paper
  2. Engagement on the consultation with staff, students and stakeholders to develop ideas and refine our thinking into an enhanced proposal paper (Autumn 2020)
  3. Testing and consultation on the proposal paper to develop final strategy documentation (Winter 2020-21)
  4. Drafting, approval and design of MDX 2031 Strategy (Spring 2021)


Explore our strategy

Our strategic priorities and focus >

Download Strategy summary >

Download Strategy in full >

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