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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced a three-year strategic plan for higher education and scientific research, to begin in 2008.

The plan was unveiled last week (30 July) by Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, minister for higher education and scientific research, and has been forwarded to the Ministry of Finance and Industry to be included in the 2008 budget.

The strategy aims to update UAE's science and technology university education programmes to match global standards.

The strategy also proposes setting up an 'educational hub' to encourage scientific collaboration. The Dubai International Academic City will comprise universities and research and development centres from developing countries, such as India, Iran and Pakistan, as well as industrialised countries, such as Australia, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

The plan also calls for increasing the enrolment of male students in UAE universities, which currently stands at only 28 per cent.

The plan proposes analysing private sector and national development needs, and strengthening scientific expertise in line with these requirements.

The strategy also calls for promoting science awareness to encourage the development of the UAE into a knowledge-based society.

Zakaria Maamar, associate professor at the College of Information Technology at Zayed University told SciDev.Net, "Any initiative that boosts research and development in the UAE and hopefully in the Arab world will be greatly appreciated by the scientific community."

He said the science strategy will help scientists gear their research activities towards achieving the country's economic development needs.

To further promote science in society, the science minister also agreed last month (July) to develop plans for a science 'plaza' in Abu Dhabi. The Plaza of Intelligence and Innovation City will promote science-related activities and include a research centre for space sciences, a space and science museum and an academy for maths and science teachers.