What is interdisciplinary learning and why is it important? | Top Universities

What is interdisciplinary learning and why is it important?

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Chloe Lane

Updated Mar 13, 2023



zayed university

Sponsored by Zayed University 

Interdisciplinary learning empowers students to combine frameworks and concepts from multiple disciplines to examine a theme or solve a problem from different perspectives.  

What that means in practice is that students will gain the skillset to tackle complexity and change effectively throughout their careers.  

As a leader in innovation, the UAE’s Zayed University has introduced a series of new interdisciplinary programmes. Students will be able to choose from four new interdisciplinary degree programmes, in addition to the university’s existing arts and creative enterprises programmes.  

These are: 

  • Business transformation 
  • Social innovation 
  • Computational systems 
  • Sustainability 

There are plenty of benefits to students of studying an interdisciplinary degree. Here are just a few: 

Active, problem-based learning  

Interdisciplinary learning encourages students to combine ideas from different programmes and modules when working on a project or assignment. It is often centred around active, problem-based learning, finding new innovative solutions and putting them into practice. 

The new degree programmes are in line with the national agenda: the UAE’s Centennial 2071 plan and Projects of the 50, which are focused on improving the education system to build a stronger and more innovative nation.  

Zayed University’s acting Provost and Chief Academic Officer, Dr Michael Allen said: “Our teaching methodology, which combines state-of-the-art in-class technologies, cutting-edge pedagogies, and project-based learning, provides an interactive and student-led learning experience second to none.” 

Work on real-world business projects  

One way universities can introduce interdisciplinary learning to their programmes is by integrating real-world projects into the curriculum, so students will be working directly with industry partners during their degree.  

As part of their degree at Zayed University, students will spend time participating in corporate challenges with local and international companies. Throughout their degree, students will work on integrated structured projects which will give them the opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge from their classes to real-world problems. 

This strong integration of practical industry learning into the educational experience is what makes Zayed University’s learning model unique and effective, giving students the practical experience needed to thrive in their career.   

Gain skills that prepare you for the workplace 

Interdisciplinary programmes can help you gain the skills needed to adapt to a rapidly changing workplace, combining theory with practice to help students develop valuable transferable skills. 

Dr Allen says there are several skills interdisciplinary students are more likely to develop: 

  • Effective cognitive skills 
  • Reading, writing, speaking and thinking skills 
  • A higher curiosity for learning 
  • More creativity and originality in thought processes 
  • An ability to integrate traditional ideas with innovative ideas 
  • Problem Solving techniques 

During their first year at Zayed University, new students undertake a suite of innovative general education courses. These are the first of their kind in the UAE and are carefully designed and integrated to develop the soft skills students need for their future careers. Students will then move on to take core programmes in their chosen areas, before specialising in a subject of their choice. 

Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, President of Zayed University said: “This is an enormously exciting time for Zayed University. By changing the way we teach, we can give students the best possible preparation for the workplace.  

“The workplace is evolving fast and higher education must evolve with it. Sheikh Zayed taught us to embrace innovation and these new degree programs are a continuation of his spirit. Our degrees will open the eyes of our students to the opportunities available to them in the private sector, and develop our future thinkers, doers, and leaders.”  

Build valuable industry connections 

By working directly with international and local companies on real business projects, students will not only gain transferable skills but will also build valuable relationships with industry connections, early on in their career journeys. 

Students at Zayed University get the opportunity to work with a wide range of corporate partners in the UAE, which has included: Emirates Development Bank, G42, Cisco, Etisalat and Injazat. 

Dr Allen said: “From day one, alongside their chosen degree subjects, students partake in real-world work experience alongside industry mentors and dedicated career coaches. These mentors come from leading industries and are experts in their fields.  

“The practical experience opens students’ eyes to the opportunities available to them when they graduate and, from the get-go, establishes and builds valuable professional networks.”