By Dr. Gautam Sen
Why Research at AUS?
According to the university’s published ‘Vision’ statement, AUS is committed to research: ‘American University of Sharjah (AUS) will be the region’s leader in higher education, known for excellence and innovation in teaching, learning, research and service.’
AUS is bound to pursue a research agenda by accreditation and licensure requirements at both the institutional and program level. According to the UAE Commission for Academic Accreditation Procedural Guidelines for Renewal of Licensure (2011),it is a condition of renewal of licensure that AUS ‘has a research strategy and assesses its effectiveness.’ The Middle States Commission on Higher Education states that ‘Encouragement for faculty research, as well as for professional advancement and development, are characteristics of enlightened institutional policies.’
As a condition of its accreditation with the Middle States Commission, AUS must demonstrate that ‘The institution’s administrative structure and services facilitate learning and research/scholarship...’ It is also expected to demonstrate that it provided ‘appropriate institutional support for the advancement and development of faculty, including teaching, research, scholarship, and service.’ The Commission also requires that graduate studies ‘offer focused study and relevant independent research of a specialized nature,’ within the context of institutional aims and teaching considerations. (Characteristics of Excellence in Higher Education Requirements of Affiliation and Standards for Accreditation, Middle States Commission on Higher Education (12th Edn.))
Apart from the need to fulfill accreditation requirements, research enhances the reputation of the University. A strong institutional research agenda both draws good faculty and facilitates their scholarly development. For good or ill, research is currently the global ‘productivity index’ for a faculty’s worth. In today’s climate, the ‘market’ tends to consider research as a significant measure.
The Cost of Research
There cannot be a ‘one formula fits all’ model. The cost of research varies between faculty and across academic units. In some units, conducting research is expensive and requires instrumentation and space, whereas in other units, research may be theoretical and hence relatively inexpensive. Every department needs to build up its own economically sustainable, short- and long-term strategies for research, which balance unit priorities, faculty time, budget, student needs and future growth. Currently AUS gives about AED 3M per year in internal funds to support faculty research.
What about External Research Funding?
In recent years AUS has received several million dirhams in external funds for research. While opportunities for external funding have been sporadic, our faculty have received grants from external agencies that include SRC-ATIC, the Emirates Foundation, the National Research Foundation, the Templeton Foundation and the Qatar National Research Foundation.
Multidisciplinary Research Centers
Within the past couple of years, AUS has developed the Gulf Studies Center (GSC) and the Gulf Ecosystem Research Center (GERC). Following Acting Chancellor Hochstettler’s recent announcement, I am very pleased to welcome our new Directors - James Onley (GSC) and Nabil Abdel Jabbar (GERC).
Dr. Gautam Sen is Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Studies at American University of Sharjah.For more information about American University of Sharjah, please visit www.aus.edu