The British University in Dubai\'s (BUiD) ethos is not just about gathering knowledge but very much focused on relationships. This is why at our recent graduation ceremony we were happy to see our students celebrate their successes with friends, family, tutors and employers. However, the students also celebrated with the university\'s supporters and friends in business, industry, culture and of course government. Like any reputable institution, BUiD\'s focus is on how things and people work together to achieve success. Most of our programmes relating to projects, systems, environment, education networks and financial models all emphasise inter-dependency and connection. The dissemination of higher education knowledge must shift from ‘know what and where to look\' knowledge to enquiry and exploration of the how and why of connectedness and consequences. Shifting focus Article continues below For the better ends and objectives of local, regional and world communities global higher education must now focus more on teaching how to understand, develop and utilise relationship networks in the 21st century. This is necessary in order for tertiary institutions to nurture the type of society necessary for operating in a knowledge-based economy. For example, relationship-building and mutual understandings were at the heart of BUiD\'s student visits to our associated UK universities in Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham and Scotland this year. These visits included reciprocal journeys to the UAE and the establishment of connections through new media to further build on collaboration and research opportunities. As students and people in general learn and understand more about the importance of relationships and networks, they will come to know things may not always happen in ways intended or expected. Due to this fact, it is crucial to understand the importance of empathy to members within and beyond the university community. Progress Dubai has seen real progress towards this joined-up or ‘systemic\' view of tertiary education, a view made possible through partnerships formed by the Education Cluster of Tecom Investments with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority and the UAE\'s federal and private universities. The recent end to graduation season marks the importance of moving forward towards using our understanding and curiosity of how systems work. Dubai is now able to take advantage of its growing reputation and develop its young intellectual and professional communities into practical networks of learning for the mutual benefit of the economy, the individual and the society at large. Such networks may, however, require new approaches to information sharing and attitudes towards failure. However, I would suggest it is for the greater good we now look more deeply and seriously at the value, purpose and need for research-based higher education.