The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the world’s first postgraduate AI university, is doubling its academic and student numbers. The acting provost, Professor Timothy Baldwin, said the university is aiming to attract top talent from across the globe. Established in 2019 and licensed in 2020, MBZUAI was founded to support the UAE National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which aims to diversify and decarbonize the economy. According to Baldwin, AI is one of the major planks of the future economy, with a target of 13% of Abu Dhabi’s GDP being AI generated by 2031. The university is playing a vital role in the UAE government’s strategic objectives. The university is seen as a catalyst to help the UAE achieve AI 2031 in three primary ways. The pipeline of masters and PhD students, research and acting as a magnet for AI investment into the region.
The university has 52 teaching faculty and 202 students from around the world, leveraging “incredible density in the AI space, which puts us on a par with the top universities in the world in this narrow area”. MBZUAI it is among the top 25 universities globally in the Computer Science Rankings – CSRankings – in AI, computer vision, machine learning and natural language processing, as well as web and information retrieval. Furthermore, its faculty chaired five of the most prestigious global AI conferences in 2022.
The university initially had two departments: computer vision, which encompasses AI that has anything to do with graphics, such as images or video – an example of an application is face detection – and machine learning, which is core AI in terms of building models for data types, such as financial or logistics data. The third department, natural language processing, was founded by Professor Timothy Baldwin, who joined MBZUAI a year ago, to help develop interfaces between AI and human language. The university offers research masters and PhD programmes in each of the three sub-fields.
This year, MBZUAI is launching four new departments in core computer science, robotics, statistics, data science, and human-computer interaction. With the new departments, the university will add more applied AI, “but still building off that core and identifying AI adjacent components of those areas to develop a faculty base around.” Some 30 additional faculty members will be recruited this year.
MBZUAI is evolving and growing rapidly, initially having just 52 students, this has grown to 202 students. Its 202 postgraduate students include 161 pursuing masters and 41 studying for PhDs. The first graduating class in 2022 included 52 students.
The university is attracting the AI world’s best and brightest due to the attractiveness of the university’s critical mass of expertise, which puts it on a par with the top universities in the world in the AI space. For 2022, it has been ranked among the top 25 universities globally in AI, and the number of papers presented per scientist at top conferences in the past three years puts its quality research output above rival countries such as Switzerland, Israel and France.
The university’s strategic vision and mission also aim to promote diversity and inclusivity in the AI space. Professor Baldwin notes that the university is making “a big push to increase the number of women in AI”. He adds, “We’ve got a series of programmes in place to do that, for instance, recruiting from women’s universities in Saudi Arabia, and putting in place a specific scholarship to increase the representation of women in AI at MBZUAI”.
The university has also launched the MBZUAI Women in AI initiative, a platform for women in AI to share their experiences and create opportunities for mentorship and networking.
Additionally, MBZUAI has established a partnership with the United Nations Development Programme to promote responsible AI in the region. The partnership will focus on building national capacities and enabling the development of a governance framework for AI in the UAE and the wider region.
The university’s commitment to responsible AI also extends to its research focus. Professor Baldwin explains, “We have a number of faculty whose research is focused on ethical AI, looking at issues like bias and fairness in AI systems, as well as transparency and explainability”.
The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence represents a significant step forward in the development of AI globally. With a focus on talent development, innovation, and strategic partnerships, the university is well-positioned to contribute to the UAE’s ambitious goals for AI and to push the boundaries of what is possible in the field. As Professor Baldwin notes, “It’s a very exciting time to be in AI, and MBZUAI is at the forefront of the field”.