Within a short period of four years, MBZUAI, Abu Dhabi, has the earned the reputation of being the world’s first artificial intelligence-focused university
Established in 2019, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), Abu Dhabi has earned the reputation of being the world’s first AI (artificial intelligence) focused university. An exclusively postgrad and research institution (it doesn’t offer any undergrad programmes), in a short span of four years, MBZUAI has earned global acclaim for providing cutting-edge graduate AI education and research. In the 2022 CS Rankings compiled by Emery Berger, a professor in the College of Information & Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (USA) campus, MBZUAI is ranked #127 worldwide in computer science and in its area of specialisation — AI, computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing — #19 globally.
Within three years of admitting its first batch of postgrad students, MBZUAI has concluded collaboration agreements with top-ranked universities worldwide and impressive industry-academia partnerships with corporates such as IBM, BioMap, Quris-AI, Infinite Brain Technologies (IBT), Malaria No More, Weizmann Institute of Science, and GE Healthcare.
Named after Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, MBZUAI was established four years ago and officially licensed by the ministry of education to award degree certification on March 10, 2020. Currently, the university offers three Masters and doctoral programmes to 147 students from 27 countries mentored by 50 faculty of which half are from Abu Dhabi. Its President is Dr. Eric Xing, an alum of Rutgers University, University of California, Berkeley and Tsinghua University (China).
“While we have a strong focus on foundational AI, much of the true innovation in AI comes in applied/interdisciplinary contexts, where intra-institutional opportunities are limited for a ‘narrower’ university. But our faculty has built strong international networks and signed up inter-disciplinary collaboration agreements with comprehensive universities worldwide and also with end users such as industry, hospitals, government institutions,” says Timothy Baldwin, Acting Provost, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, and professor of natural language processing, MBZUAI.
MBZUAI alumni have thus far been placed with the Abu Dhabi Police, G42, Technology Innovation Institute, Metaverse Centre, Inria Lille Institute, Royal Eficaz, FortyGuard, Shinobi Security, Yalla Group, and SnapChat, UK among other organisations.
Abu Dhabi. The admin capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi (pop.1.5 million) is a political, business and cultural hub with all federal government offices, parliament and foreign embassies located in this compact, well-planned city. Architecturally, Abu Dhabi is an aesthetic blend of domes and minarets of traditional mosques and gleaming futuristic skyscrapers. Tree-lined boulevards, manicured lawns, dazzling fountains and extensive parks successfully contradict the reality that this thriving city has been built in a desert, an impression reinforced by the marvellously engineered Abu Dhabi Corniche.
The climate in Abu Dhabi is harsh during summer (June-September) when temperatures soar to 50°C. Winter temperatures range between 20°C-33°C. This entrepot is well-connected with daily direct flights (three-four hours duration) plying from Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru and Cochin.
Campus facilities. MBZUAI’s state-of-the-art campus is sited in the contiguous Masdar City, a unique sustainable urban community and emerging hub of education, research and innovation and clean-tech companies.
The university provides a wide range of purpose-built facilities including student accommodation, laboratories, library (offering specialised electronic collections in the interdisciplinary field of AI), a knowledge centre, an auditorium, canteen, first-aid clinic, multipurpose hall with indoor sports facilities for table tennis, badminton, basketball, gyms, and swimming pool. Additionally, several retail outlets including restaurants and cafes are sited on campus.
Yet perhaps the varsity’s most distinguishing landmarks are its state-of-the-art AI and computing labs providing best-in-class technologies. For instance, the High-Performance Computing Lab is equipped with powerful workstations enabling data-intensive processing and high-performance computing while the Data Acquisition Lab is fitted with high-end camera systems, thermal imagers, dynamic vision sensors, and drones.
Admission. Students who have successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in a STEM subject such as computer science/electrical engineering, mathematics, physics among other science and engineering majors, from a college/university recognised by the UAE Ministry of Education with a minimum CGPA of 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale) or equivalent, are eligible for admission into the university’s postgrad programmes. For doctoral programmes, the minimum eligibility criterion is completion of a Masters’ programme. It is also possible to gain entry to Ph.D. programs straight from a bachelors degree for exceptional students, generally on the strength of publications in top AI
Applicants are also required to submit proof of proficiency in the English language (TOEFL iBT with a minimum score of 90; or IELTS Academic (6.5) or EmSAT English (1550)). In addition, two/three letters of recommendation are required to be submitted. The admission deadline is March 31, 2024 for the academic year beginning in August. Students who are eligible may avail a scholarship with a 100% tuition fees waiver, accommodation, health insurance and a monthly stipend and annual ticket to their home country. However, to retain the scholarship, students must maintain a CGPA of 3.3 or above and keep a clean deed record, and with no evidence of dishonest or unethical behavior among other criteria.
Accommodation. MBZUAI offers on-campus accommodation within walking distance of laboratories and main buildings. Student residences are split into four blocks, separate for male and women students. Most apartments are single bedroom with attached kitchen and bathroom facilities. Every residential block provides laundry facilities. For more information, write to [email protected].
Degree programmes. The university offers three Masters and doctoral programmes (see box). Moreover, it also offers a fully-paid four-week Undergraduate Research Internship Program.
SCHOLASTIC OPTIONS AT MBZUAI
The university offers postgrad and research degree programmes exclusively in the field of AI. They include:
Postgrad. Masters in natural language processing, machine learning, computer vision, robotics, computer science
Ph D. Doctor of Philosophy in natural language processing, machine learning, computer vision, robotics and computer science
Tuition fees. AED 5,000-6,600 per credit
NB. Students are prohibited from wearing “revealing clothes” — which the varsity defines as clothing made of sheer fabric or too tight. The lower back, abdomen and upper arms must not be revealed. Skirts must extend below the knee.