Global online education initiative to be unveiled at Expo 2020 Dubai



Heriot-Watt University has today unveiled a new online education initiative designed to open up higher education opportunities to thousands of non-traditional students around the world.

Heriot-Watt Online, which will be presented during a day-long Future Skills Conference held at Expo 2020 Dubai on 8th December 2021, differs from other mass learning approaches by offering tailored courses that address the key issues and skill gaps identified by businesses and industry bodies.

The initiative, which includes Masters courses in subjects like Digital Transformation, Data Analytics and Supply Chain Management and Logistics alongside undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships, works with businesses to co-create and co-deliver courses tailored to current and future talent needs.

With applied and work-based learning at its core, the new approach will enable the University to support organisations with a range of impactful workforce development needs. New courses coming in the future include Masters in Sustainability and Energy Transition.

With the global workforce predicted to grow by 230 million people by 2030, the job market is rapidly changing with around 2 billion jobs predicted to change due to new technology, decarbonisation and new growth industries. A $8.5bn talent shortage is predicted by 2030.

The adult education market is therefore predicted to grow dramatically as the pace of new knowledge and the demands of the global workforce continue to accelerate.

Dr Gillian Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt University said: “Our mission is to power the economy and transform lives by providing world-class relevant and flexible learning. The devastating impact of the pandemic has accelerated acceptance and understanding about the benefits of digital learning but also highlighted the urgent need for businesses to build a suitable talent pipeline who are trained for the future jobs market.

“The demographic of learners is changing and is unlikely to go back to the pre-pandemic landscape.  Our largest student group by age is now late 30s and early 40s with a higher percentage of women as barriers are broken down to accessing higher education.

“Workplace skills are also changing rapidly, so both employers and employees must keep pace. Heriot-Watt University has spent the past two years undertaking a detailed analysis of the current marketplace and researching the needs of business, identifying where the gaps are. We conducted research with students, industry bodies, partners within corporate businesses and academics to design this new learning approach.

“Many people simply can’t take time out to study due to financial or personal circumstances. It’s essential that universities facilitate this shift in approach to education, continuing to cater for students who are leaving school but ensuring that adult learners can receive a world-class education at any age, anywhere in the world. We are breaking down the borders and barriers may people face when trying to reach their career goals by offering a flexible approach.

“Non-traditional students will soon outstrip traditional campus-based students so initiatives like Heriot-Watt Online will allow learners to continue in full-time employment, gain credit for their work-based projects and accelerate the skills that are relevant to their role, informed by the needs of their employers.”

Heriot-Watt University has a long history of delivering online education, having been a market-leader in the delivery of digital MBA courses across 160 countries for the past 20 years. Applying these learnings, Heriot-Watt Online will launch an additional 20 Masters courses over the next few years which are targeted towards emerging industries like Sustainable Futures, Energy Transition and Business Psychology.

Dr Murray continues: “Industry bodies are calling out for these types of courses but what makes our offering unique is that we’re also leading many areas of innovative research that will inform the future job market.  Developing the right types of courses to help build in-demand skills is crucial.

“Our ambitious Industrial Decarbonisation Research & Innovation Centre (IDRIC) – run by Professor Mercedes Maroto-Valer – is at the forefront of helping traditional industries to cut their emissions and tackle the climate emergency. Our National Robotarium is developing technology to help humans stay safe by finding robotic solutions to decommissioning nuclear power stations, servicing offshore wind turbines, or navigating hazardous terrain for search and rescue following natural disasters. These advances in areas such as robotics and artificial intelligence highlight why it’s so important for our students – no matter their age or location – to continue to develop their skills.”


Annie Diamond