Abu Dhabi's coding school is on track to develop the UAE's workforce of the future after receiving more than 10,000 applications since opening its doors in October.
42 Abu Dhabi is proving popular with a new generation of learners eager to be equipped with the tools needed to thrive in the digital age.
It welcomed 225 students in its first intake and has the capacity to fill 1,000 fully funded places for courses of up to three years.
With no classrooms or teachers, the forward-thinking school is available free of charge.
Students sharpen their programming skills through internships, projects, games and peer-to-peer learning.
The cutting-edge centre has attracted applicants from diverse backgrounds, including oil and gas engineers, university professors and schoolteachers, recent graduates, information technology experts, flight attendants and even a DJ.
“Since the school launched, we have received over 10,000 applications, 550 of them reached our inaugural Piscine stage [final assessment]," said Leo Filardi, chief executive of 42 Abu Dhabi.
"Of the 550 Piscine applicants, 225 successful students were invited to join the programme; and we currently have 152 students on campus from more than 32 nationalities.
For the 2022 intake, the school doubled the numbers to offer the opportunity for aspiring coders to apply and earn one of about 1,000 seat openings, Mr Filardi said.
"We can already see great interest and applications, as thousands of students are now taking the online logic test," he said.
“The 1,000 applicants will be tested and challenged throughout the 25 days, with successful applicants invited to join the programme.”
How difficult is it to get a place at the school?
Applying to 42 Abu Dhabi is a three-step process. Interested candidates can register on the school's website and take a pre-selection test to evaluate their skills through logic and memory games.
Successful candidates are invited to attend a check-in, which is an hour-long virtual session that provides details about the test, curriculum and student life.
Following this, candidates are invited to join the Piscine, a comprehensive 25-day programme, designed to test aptitude in computer programming, motivation, endurance, and commitment.
“We do not select students in the traditional sense of faculty decisions to select students, but we give all applicants an equal opportunity to test their motivation, endurance, and commitment,” said Mr Filardi.
“It’s important for them to understand that the process is not a competition.
“Applicants who make it through the Piscine stage with the highest scores will be invited to join the programme.
"There is no specific number of students that we accept, if all applicants proved their ability to join the programme, we will invite them all, and if only one applicant proved his or her ability, then only that applicant will be able to join.”
Who can apply for a place at 42 Abu Dhabi?
42 Abu Dhabi is open to anyone aged 18 and above who has a high school certificate.
Candidates do not require previous coding experience or academic qualifications.
People looking for work across all industries with an interest in upskilling or re-skilling are encouraged to apply irrespective of coding experience. There is no upper age limit, and a high school certificate and a minimum age of 18 years old are the only requirements.
“All sectors require code to survive in the new technology-driven age," said Mr Filardi.
"We do not only graduate coders, but we graduate critical thinkers and problem solvers who are capable of leading the development of their respective industries. You could be a doctor, an engineer, an artist, a researcher, or a programmer and you will benefit from 42 Abu Dhabi."
He said the school focused on equipping students with hard programming skills, as well as soft skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and adaptability.
Students complete the programme at their own pace, and it can them take between three and five years.
All students are required to complete two internships during the course: the first at the end of the foundation stage and the second towards the end of the programme.
42 opened its first campus in Paris in 2013 and to date has equipped more than 12,000 students around the world with digital and business skills.
“We don't compete with the traditional education, we work along with them," Mr Filardi said.
"We have some students here studying at universities doing their bachelor's and then they come to 42 to understand how technology can enhance their learning."
In the absence of teachers and classrooms, students learn through project-based learning, peer-to-peer learning and evaluating each other's work. Collectively, they learn and succeed.
If a student is struggling with the peer-to-peer process, the school arranges a session with them to explain how to provide good feedback or how to give a good evaluation.
"It's the strength of the group that makes them succeed. It's not an individual journey, it's a collaborative journey," said Mr Filardi.
The coding school has signed partnerships with organisations such as Huawei, Oracle, Microsoft, Intel, and Du.
They recently collaborated with Oracle to host a series of workshops and talks at their campus.
The sessions focused on topics such as artificial intelligence, innovation, business applications, blockchain, among other topics.