An academic from Ras Al Khaimah was yesterday named the first Emirati to be sent to the United States on a fast-track university leadership course. Dr Ali Al Mansouri said it was a \"privilege\" - but added that he was only too aware of the weight of responsibility on him. At just 35, he is already associate director of the Higher Colleges of Technology in RAK, and heads the Emiratisation programme. All three federal universities - HCT, Zayed University and UAE University - have signed a deal with the American Council of Education (ACE) to let them nominate candidates for its leadership scheme. Dr Al Mansouri will shadow a university president for 12 weeks over the course of a year. He is looking for institutions at which he can learn as much as possible, finding common links such as those working with schools to improve the preparation of leavers. Hundreds apply for the course each year. Dr Al Mansouri was chosen from 50 finalists on the basis of a 30-page application and three interviews with US academics and members of ACE. \"It\'s a pressure being the first,\" he said. \"It\'s a responsibility rather than a privilege. It will cost quite a lot of money but hopefully next year we will send more, and send women, as the colleges need women too.\" The UAE universities hope the project will help them incorporate Emiratis into more senior roles. Dr Al Mansouri\'s college in RAK already has the best record of Emiratisation of any in the HCT - 24 per cent of its staff and six per cent of its academics are Emirati. Dr Tayeb Kamali, vice chancellor of HCT, said the course would allow Dr Al Mansouri to gain five years\' experience in just 12 months. \"It\'s a tremendous opportunity to get fast-track experience,\" said Dr Kamali. \"We\'re so proud of his selection and hope it will encourage other Emiratis into education.\" The project\'s funding comes from the federal budget given to HCT for Emiratisation. Each college is allocated a chunk of a Dh10 million central fund each year to recruit four Emiratis and cover their salaries for the first year. After that, the colleges have to budget for the Emiratis\' higher salaries themselves. Dr Al Mansouri, who gained his PhD in management from Leeds University in the UK, said Emiratis were needed in leadership roles as they \"understand the culture, the needs of students and their families, the society\'s needs\". Prof Rory Hume, provost at UAE University, said the programme would greatly help get Emiratis into leadership roles. \"This is ideal for people working up the career ladder, for example, a department chair working towards the position of dean or a professor working towards becoming a dean,\" he said. \"It\'s important because, increasingly, the UAE should rely on its own nationals to be leaders at the dean level and above rather than rely on expatriates.\" Gretchen Bataille, a senior vice president at ACE, said the programme offered a mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge. \"Not everyone is brave enough to do this,\" she said. \"But Ali is very talented and has already gone abroad for his education, so even though it wasn\'t a US university, he has that more worldly quality.\"