UAE: Education hub in the Middle East region

Filed on April 16, 2019
UAE: Education hub in the Middle East region


Through global partnerships, a number of international universities are opening campuses or launching programmes in the UAE

The vision of the country's leaders is to make the UAE a knowledge-based economy and a major education hub in the Middle East. One of the UAE's highest priorities has always been education. The country has focused on educating both men and women.

The literacy rates for both genders today are nearly 90 per cent. Some of the world's best universities have programmes in the UAE, attracting talented students in the Arab world and globally. Apart from this, according to a major global survey by Mercer, an investment services provider, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are ranked the top two cities in the Middle East for their quality of life.

The UAE is home to a wide range of public and private universities. Public universities include the UAE University that has more than 14,000 students. The all-female institution Zayed University, established in 1998, has campuses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and is organised into several colleges that teach Arts and Sciences, Business Sciences, Communication and Media Sciences, Education, and Information Systems.

The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the UAE's largest higher educational institution with an enrolment of more than 20,000 UAE nationals, was founded in 1988 with four campuses. HCT now includes 17 campuses in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Madinat Zayed, Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah. HCT offers more than 80 programmes at four different credential levels - Diploma, Higher Diploma, Bachelor's and Master's. Founded in 1997, the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) is the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology and provides education, training and applied technology and has strong industrial links. Additionally, they also offer vocational programmes through the Applied Institutes of Technology.

Various other vocational and technical educational centres include the Emirates Institute for Banking and Finance, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Career Development Centre, Petroleum Institute, Dubai School of Government, Emirates Aviation College for Aerospace and Academic Studies, etc.

Through global partnerships, a number of international universities are opening campuses or launching programmes in the UAE. Free trade zones such as Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai International Financial Centre, RAK Free Zone and Academic City host some of the finest institutions with state-of-the-art infrastructure. Students from the Middle East and South Asia are benefitting from these educational opportunities housed in multi-university complexes.

The higher education institutions in the UAE offer higher national diplomas, certificates, undergraduate and postgraduate studies. While some of these are awarded by local institutions, others are branch campuses of institutions from countries such as Canada, the US, UK, Australia, India, Pakistan, France and other European countries.

The duration of courses vary depending on the parent institution. The UAE now has a number of recognised institutions offering hundreds of accredited programmes. The Council for Academic Accreditation (CAA), functioning under the Ministry of Higher Education, is entrusted the task of accrediting programmes. The stringent measures followed by the CAA to ensure quality of service delivery, streamlines procedures and safeguards the interest of students.

Since the UAE is a melting pot of various nationalities, colleges, universities and institutes in the country offer a variety of programmes from around the world. It is possible to select from a two-year vocational programme or higher national diploma from the UK or Australia, a three-year Indian degree or a four-year American or Canadian degree.

Vocational courses ranging from jewellery design, sound engineering and film production to hotel management are on offer along with traditional degree options in a wide variety of specialisations. To meet the country's growing needs, institutions are designing newer programmes that will improve employability and make the younger generation skilled.

Students can fill forms online or approach institutions directly to seek admission. Most institutions need a minimum of 12 years of schooling. Students seeking enrolment directly after O-levels will be required to study a foundation year. Based on the programme of study sought, there will be a minimum requirement in terms of grades or marks secured. This will vary with each institution.
Most institutions in the UAE have a September intake, some offer summer programmes and a few have a January intake. Most institutions also require a TOEFL or IELTS score to demonstrate English proficiency. Some establishments conduct their own entrance exam. It is advisable to contact individual institutions to clarify the admission requirements.

Admissions typically commence in April and offers are made through September. Admissions are usually finalised after the schools' final exam results are announced between May and July. International students applying from overseas are advised to secure their UAE residence visa in time for the commencement of the programme.

Costs vary between institutions and range from Dh2,000 to Dh5,000 a month. Some of the institutions offer merit scholarships.

All institutions are equipped with computer labs, Wi-Fi, libraries, canteens and sports facilities. Students can participate in various sports activities, water sports, trekking and take advantage of the many conferences, seminars and cultural events that take place in the UAE throughout the year.

Most institutions have the latest technology, resources and laboratories. Research and technical collaboration for sharing resources and knowledge are being facilitated by strategic partnerships between academic institutions and the industry. Furthermore, study abroad programmes are being designed in partnership with overseas universities.

Housing options are available in the form of furnished apartments, dormitories and home stays. Costs vary depending on the location, size of the room and number of people sharing the facility.
Students from the Middle East and South Asia are benefitting from the educational opportunities housed in multi-university complexes.


Commission for Academic Accreditation -
Dubai Knowledge Park -
Academic City -
Knowledge and Human Development Authority -


For all male students above the age of 18, a student or sponsorship visa is mandatory. To secure this, the institution requires the following documents:

Student Visa Application Form (Student Entry Permit)
Eight passport size photographs taken with a white background
Student Enrolment Contract: This is required for Dubai ?Knowledge Park students.
An official offer letter without any conditions
Four photocopies of the applicant's passport (including pages  showing UAE visit visa or residence visa, if application is made locally)
Copy of a personal bank statement showing a minimum of Dh30,000; This should be recent and  have the stamp and signature of a bank official, or alternatively, a financial sponsorship letter from  parents or guardians indicating their willingness to bear the financial responsibility for the tuition and cost of living.
A copy of the receipt showing payment of full tuition and student visa charges.

Forms related to the visa processing can be secured from the sponsoring institution.

Health Insurance is mandatory and an annual fee ranging from Dh1,200 to Dh2,000 will be charged for the same. Students seeking sponsorship for the visa need to bear the costs and this will range from Dh6,000 to Dh7,000. Costs will also be incurred during the annual renewal of visa and a sum of Dh1,200 to Dh2,200 may be charged for every visa renewal. These amounts can vary depending on the country's laws at the time and the individual institution's rules.

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