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Sat 13 Mar 2010 04:00 AM

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Lessons in logistics

Why the University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD) has opened its doors to the region's next generation of logistics professionals.

Lessons in logistics
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Lessons in logistics
UOWD’s logistics graduates have been employed by the likes of Aramex, GE Medical Systems and Maersk Logistics.

Why the University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD) has opened its doors to the region's next generation of logistics professionals.

Although the Middle East has experienced a recent influx of education programmes in supply chain management, it was actually the University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD) that helped to kick-start the revolution in January 2008, when it launched a Masters of Science (MSc) in logistics.

Before that time, the vast majority of students were faced with the prospect of searching abroad for more established courses, with a traditional focus on countries such as the United Kingdom and North America. However, following a regional boom in the warehousing and transportation sector, it was deemed important for local talent to be retained in the Middle East, thus creating a unique and potentially lucrative opportunity for the education sector.

"There's little doubt that Dubai has established itself as the primary logistics hub of the Middle East, especially with the development of Dubai Logistics City and various other free zones," explains Professor Rob Whelan, president of UOWD. "However, despite a need for skilled professionals to help facilitate the industry's growth, the team at UOWD observed that local provisions for advanced training were not available. Our postgraduate course in logistics was therefore established to develop that talent and serve the needs of the industry, in addition to the needs of the United Arab Emirates as a whole."

The programme was accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education in 2007, following a rigorous process that involved a team of prominent international professors being sent to evaluate the course structure, admission criteria, university facilities amd faculty details, amongst other factors.

"This team spent three days on campus to meet the faculty, discuss the degree with the programme chair and suggest amendments to improve the curriculum. Once each of their requirements was met, the programme was approved and could then be offered to potential students," states Whelan. "That was a couple of years ago now and although the degree is still relatively young, the reaction has been very positive. Our first batch of students graduated in 2009 and the intakes have been steadily increasing each semester."

There are six compulsory modules for students to complete in the UOWD logistics course, which include supply chain management, inventory management, logistics system management, logistics information systems, strategic supply chain management and quantitative methods for decision making.

In addition, two electives need to be chosen, either from a supply chain management stream (which consists of process and change management or procurement management) or an operations stream (which consists of manufacturing and operations strategy or service operations management).

"The course is aimed at those who want to make a career in logistics and also at professionals that already work in the sector and wish to advance into positions of greater management responsibility," adds Whelan. "It's very flexible and although students can complete the entire degree within a year, the majority have decided to combine their study with full-time work in the logistics industry."

With a growing number of other universities in the Middle East launching their own courses in supply chain management over the past couple of years, the market has become more and more competitive. However, Whelan is confident that the UOWD's offering is strong enough to stand out from the crowd, especially in the long-term.

"All programmes are not of the same level or quality. It is important for prospective students to distinguish what a particular programme is offering in terms of content, currency and relevance to industry," he stipulates."Any course that does not provide value to the students in developing relevant skills and those that do not meet the requirements of the industry will not be attractive in the longer-term. As I said, there is an urgent need for well-trained professionals in the regional logistics sector."

Proving his point, Whelan lists the career options that are available to UOWD  graduates in a diverse range of industries, such as retail, automotive, transportation, warehousing, hospitality, manufacturing and technology.

"Some of the companies where our graduates are working include Aramex, GE Medical Systems and Maersk Logistics," he states with a sense of pride. "There really is a wide variety of career opportunities for specialist or managerial positions in multi-national corporations, private companies and government organisations. We're talking about departments such as purchasing, procurement, logistics, production, quality control, international trade and planning."

To ensure its market share is maintained, or even increased, UOWD has vowed to constantly review the syllabus of each degree programme to keep it relevant and current to developments in the market. According to Whelan, the logistics course is no exception.

"The strong research connections between our academic staff and practitioners in the logistics industry facilitate this regular tracking of industry needs. In each subject through the degree, the student is required to present a project focusing on industry practice that brings in the perspective of the local market. Guest speakers are also invited to share the experience of the local market with the students," he states.

"Several of our academic staff have written case studies related to some of the regional/global logistics companies, and these cases are used in class to demonstrate changes in the supply chain landscape. Our academics have also published many research papers in logistics," he continues.

To further support its local focus, UOWD signed an agreement with Maersk Logistics in September 2008, which focused on the research of several logistics-related topics, including supply chain security and sourcing trends. As part of the initiative, staff from the global 3PL company are working in partnership with students to reinforce their learning process and showcase Maersk Logistics as a potential recruiter in the Middle East.

"This partnership has proved our industry links and moving forward, a proposal for UOWD to offer a Doctor of Business Administration is under consideration by the Commission for Academic Accreditation. One possible research field in this doctoral programme will be logistics and supply chain management, which will capitalise on our research strengths in this area and the close connections that we share with various industry partners."

Summary profile: University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD)

Name:University of Wollongong Dubai (UOWD)

Course:Master of Science (Logistics)

Launched:January 2008

Core Subjects:Supply chain management, inventory management, logistics system management, logistics information systems, strategic supply chain management and quantitative methods for decision making.

Elective Modules:Two electives need to be chosen, either from a supply chain management stream (which consists of process and change management or procurement management) or an operations stream (which consists of manufacturing and operations strategy or service operations management)

Accreditation:UOWD was initially established in 1993 as the first foreign university invited to operate in the UAE. All degree programmes are licensed by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research

Faculty:A number of full-time, permanent faculty members from UOWD and adjunct staff with expertise in logistics and supply chain management, in addition to guest speakers and industry practitioners

Target Market:Students who want to make a career in logistics or professionals already working in the sector

Employment Opportunities:Graduates have been employed by companies such as Aramex, GE Medical Systems and Maersk Logistics.