Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, has hosted a unique online reception for alumni in the Middle East and North Africa region, as part of an outreach programme to the University’s large and growing global alumni network. Professor Rothwell took the opportunity to invite the regional community to join with the University in its commitment to answering the grand societal challenges.
The University of Manchester has the largest alumni community of any campus-based university in the UK, with more than 500,000 graduates in more than 190 countries around the world. In addition to alumni, current students from the region were also invited to join the event, connecting them into the alumni community, along with a range of partners and contacts across the region.
In her opening and closing comments, Professor Rothwell updated the community on the emergence of the University from 18 months of the global pandemic, and highlighted a range of recent achievements from developments around Graphene to the physical development of the campus, research beacons, social responsibility, and other University news. The event also showcased some of the University’s academic excellence through the work of a senior academic on articifical intelligence & robotics.
The online occasion was hosted from Dubai by Middle East Ambassador and alumnus, Dr Amin El Kholy MBA, Chief Operating Officer at Modus Capital, who introduced Professor Rothwell and the guest speaker, Professor Angelo Cangelosi, Professor of Machine Learning and Robotics in the School of Engineering.
Addressing the online reception, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-President of The University of Manchester said:
“It is fantastic to be joined by alumni from the Middle East and North Africa and I am delighted to be joined by our Middle East Centre, which was launched in Dubai in 2006 and has enjoyed 15 successful years. It has supported nearly 3,000 students and graduated nearly 2,000 to-date and was awarded the best MBA programme in the inaugural Forbes Higher Education Awards and given a star rating in the inaugural rankings of international universities. So it has embraced the new world we are in and it has continued with hybrid workshops.
“The Middle East and North Africa is a really important region for us and we are seeing increased numbers of applications for students wanting to study from those regions and therefore growing our alumni base and we are very keen to stay connected with you. We are still the most popular university in the UK for undergraduate study and we have students coming from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, and many different countries in this region. We are now the first University in the UK and second in the world for students sponsored by Saudi Aramco for study.
“We are keen to stay in touch with you and please do contact our alumni office and if you can come and visit us this would be fantastic, obviously. Thanks to you all for joining and let us know what you want to hear more about from the University.”
Professor Cangelosi presented on Developmental Robotics: From Babies to Robots, and shared the latest developments in AI and machine learning, which offer an opportunity to advance the design of intelligent robots and human-robot interaction systems, for applications in flexible manufacturing, robot companions for older people and in education. The field of Developmental Robotics, part of the wider field of Cognitive Robotics, combines AI with robotics by taking inspiration from psychology (e.g. child psychology) and neuroscience. In his talk, he presented some examples of developmental robotics experiments and videos showing how robots can learn to communicate with people and can develop social skills such as Theory of Mind to improve the design of trustworthy autonomous systems.