Sharjah's first dental graduates
A $5 million University of Adelaide project to deliver an online dental curriculum to the United Arab Emirates has culminated in a spectacular graduation ceremony for the first cohort of students.
Forty-two students from the University of Sharjah graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery on May 29 after completing the Adelaide curriculum, which has been licensed to Sharjah's new College of Dentistry.
The highly successful project is the first of its kind for the University of Adelaide, involving the provision of a comprehensive five-year, online dental curriculum, intellectual property and associated expertise.
Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha, along with key project staff from the University's Dental School, travelled to Sharjah for the graduation ceremony.
The graduation ceremony was hosted by the Ruler of Sharjah and Supreme President of the University of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi.
Along with Emirati royalty and university staff from both Adelaide and Sharjah, distinguished guests from the UAE, Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada and Japan also participated.
"The event was significant for a number of reasons," Professor McWha said.
"It illustrates an emerging trend in higher education - the development of electronic interactive curricula for international markets and the commercialisation of intellectual property.
"It also reflects the outstanding reputation that our Dental School enjoys around the world. We have a long history of educating and producing first-class dental graduates and this was recognised in Sharjah's international search for a partner to provide its dental curriculum."
Since 2005, the University has provided a range of support and material to Sharjah's new Dental College, including: the online curriculum, teaching expertise and resources, the development of academic policies, documentation for accreditation, assistance with recruitment of senior staff, the development of facilities and other ongoing advice.
The project has been managed through daily electronic communication and regular visits to Sharjah by Adelaide staff, according to Professor Viv Burgess, the project director for the collaboration.
"In doing so, we have created an international standard Dental College to meet the training, research and oral health care needs of the United Arab Emirates," Professor Burgess said.
"This approach demonstrates how institutions can fund and sustain the introduction of cutting edge research and learning formats that would otherwise be out of financial reach. It has knock-on benefits in freeing up staff from heavy teaching loads and recapturing time for research."
The success of the project has resulted in the American Dental Education Association citing the Sharjah-Adelaide collaboration as "an important example of the globalisation of dental education".
The project team has also been cited in a leading international publication (Dental Products Report Europe) as "pioneers in the development of online education".
The University is now working with other dental schools in the Middle East, Asia and the UK on requests for similar collaborations. There is also the scope to adopt the same approach to other health sciences curricula - including nursing, medicine and psychology - and develop online curriculum for international universities.
Story by Candy Gibson