- The world's first university dedicated to the study of AI is preparing to welcome its first cohort of students in Abu Dhabi.
- The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) is part of Abu Dhabi's wider attempts to focus its economy on knowledge and skills.
- Sir Michael Brady, a pioneer of AI technology and interim president of MBZUAI, told Business Insider the three things prospective students will need to win a place at the university.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The world's first university dedicated to the study of AI is peparing to welcome its first cohort of students in Abu Dhabi, following a three-month pandemic delay.
The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), named for the city state's crown prince, will open its doors in January 2021.
The specialist graduate school is part of Abu Dhabi's attempts to diversity its economy, moving from oil and gas to knowledge and skills.
All students admitted to the university will receive a full scholarship, plus benefits including a monthly allowance, health insurance, and accommodation.
The university's board of trustees includes Dr Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, and Sir Michael Brady, a senior University of Oxford professor and one-time associate director of the AI Laboratory at MIT.
Speaking to Business Insider, Sir Michael outlined the three key attributes any successful candidate for study at MBZUAI will need:
1. "A pioneering spirit."
"If you want to travel somewhere brand new – to expand your horizons and be at the forefront of innovation – you're going to need to be open-minded and adventurous," Sir Michael told Business Insider.
"That requires something of a pioneering spirit."
He added that the university hopes "a certain percentage of students will remain in the UAE after completing their studies, building their careers and helping to drive" the economy's diversification.
2. Technical prowess.
"There's no doubt that students will need to be, technically, very strong to win a place at MBZUAI," Sir Michael told Business Insider.
The university whittled down the first intake to around 85 Masters and PhD students from more than 1,400 applications. Competition is stiff.
"Much of the focus of your studies, at least to begin with, will be on mathematics and computing, so applicants will need to have demonstrable ability in both areas."
Students at the Abu Dhabi university will be expected to take a range of courses on the core components of AI, including "Mathematical Foundations for Artificial Intelligence," "Big Data Processing," "Human and Computer Vision," and "Natural Language and Speech Processing."
"These will be calculated in the usual fashion," said Sir Michael — a combination of previous academic track records and Grade Point Averages.
3. "A story about why you wanted to study AI."
Rounding off his conversation with Business Insider, Sir Michael said there was "no point in students in having technical aptitude…if they lack passion [for the subject]."
"Ideally, our students will bring with them a story about why they wanted to get into the field of artificial intelligence," he said.
"Everyone has a story, but if it's going to work then we need to know: What do you think about AI and its potential? What on Earth did you think you were getting into when you first started down this road?
"You've absolutely got to have a passion for the subject – and sufficient self-confidence to get things done."
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