UAE: Home to the best universities

With many excellent universities spread across the seven emirates, the UAE has only the best to offer from its extensive global education programmes that include, but is not limited to, science, technology, business and AI

By Rhonita Patnaik

Published: Tue 19 May 2020, 1:26 PM

Last updated: Thu 21 May 2020, 7:30 PM

At just 48, the UAE is a dynamic country driven by the ambitions of becoming one of the top-ranking nations in the world. One of the pillars that will aid this vision is the development of a world-class education supported by global teaching curriculum.
A key tool for achieving the Vision 2021 is the National Strategy for Innovation launched in 2014 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aims to make the UAE one of the most innovative countries in the world by stimulating innovation in seven key sectors: renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water and space. In the field of education, the strategy will establish innovation labs in schools and universities as part of a drive to equip students with targeted skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, perseverance and an ability to adapt.

Today, the quality of the UAE higher education ranks among the top 20 globally. The UAE is home to many of top ranking global universities and offers both on campus and off-campus degree option.

Sally Jeffery, Global Education and Skills Network Leader at PwC, said: "Higher education has seen interesting shifts, both globally and in the region. Students are shifting towards destinations that not only offer quality education, but more attractive employment and residency options as well. The UAE's latest student visa reforms and inflow of reputable higher education institutions are steps in the right direction."

With over 200 nationalities currently residing in the UAE, the country is developing into a destination that attracts highly talented individuals from around the world. The government has implemented several regulations that empower both students and professionals, making it easier to stay within the country. This has been conducted through revised visa regulations such as part-time work visas as well as the five-year visa for students and the 10-year visa for 'exceptional' graduates. Additionally, safety has contributed to the allure of the nation with the UAE being ranked as the 2nd safest country in the world in the World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017.

Dubai, in particular, is aggressively pursuing growth of its own education capacity. The local higher education landscape offers four main levels of study, namely, foundation, undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate degrees. In 2018/2019 Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) experienced a surge in student numbers with a total of 27,500 students registered for the new academic year across all levels of study.

Dubai is also expanding its footprint locally, as well as through the introduction of International Branch Campuses (IBC) in free zones. These campuses are operated by foreign institutions from countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Canada and India. More so, these leading institutions offer the same degrees as their home campuses, with lower tuition rates and living expenses.

The UAE also pursues a highly effective internationalisation strategy and has become one of the preeminent transnational education hubs in the world. In a comparative study of 38 education systems worldwide, the British Council ranked the UAE highly favourably in terms of regulatory frameworks for student mobility, openness to transnational education, and recognition procedures for foreign degrees. Underscoring that assessment, the UAE has witnessed rapidly increasing outbound and inbound student flows over the past decade. Inbound mobility in particular has been rising sharply.

According to a QS report, just as the country is young and diverse, so are its educational institutions. Mid- to large-sized federal institutions have been established to serve the seven emirates, with the majority of institutions located in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Abu Dhabi, the largest emirate, has invested significant capital in major international higher education brands, such as New York University, INSEAD and the Sorbonne. Khalifa University, Zayed University, and Abu Dhabi University are the other major universities in its capital city, with the United Arab Emirates University, the oldest in the country, based in the garden city of Al Ain.

Authors Professor Waqar Ahmad, Chancellor, and Heather Friesen, Executive Director of Planning and Strategy, at Abu Dhabi University, said: "Dubai has a more 'laissez-faire' approach to higher education, with foreign institutions welcome to establish campuses in the city's free zones, and especially encouraged to locate themselves within Dubai International Academic City. Foreign institutions based in Dubai include the University of Wollongong, Heriot-Watt, Middlesex, Birmingham, Amity and Manipal universities, with Abu Dhabi University having recently opened a campus in the Knowledge Park. Further international entrants are likely to join this list. Sharjah has invested in high quality higher education with both the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah enjoying strong reputations. Emirates Ajman, Umm al Quwain, Ras al Khaimah and Fujairah have smaller populations and less well established higher education institutions, although Ajman is well-served in terms of medical and allied health education."

The report added that a key component of the UAE's strategy for development of a top-tier educational system is the establishment of a robust system for quality assurance. The UAE prides itself on rigorous internationally-derived academic quality standards: accrediting bodies, the Ministry of Education, and emirate-level bodies are diligent in maintaining standards through institutional licensure, programme accreditation, reviews and inspections.

The Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) is responsible for conducting the licensure of institutions of higher education and accreditation of each of their academic programs in the UAE. Through licensure of colleges and universities and accreditation of individual programmes, the Commission strives to assure high-quality education, consistent with high international standards.
Globally recognised universities in the UAE
The nation is fairly well-represented in international university rankings and has advanced in these rankings over the years. There are currently four Emirati universities among the top 30 institutions in the Times Higher Education (THE) Arab world rankings. United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) in Al Ain has been ranked as the top university in the country, according to a global ranking report. The UAE's former number one education institute, Khalifa University, slipped to second place. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020, listed UAEU in the 301-350 bracket, indicating an improvement from the university's 351-400 position last year. Meanwhile, Khalifa University dropped in ranking slightly, from the 301-350 bracket last year to 351-400 this year.

In its 16th year, the list, which is compiled annually by Times Higher Education, includes more than 1,300 universities from 91 countries, making it the largest higher education analysis to date.

The Times Higher Education Impact Rankings are the only global performance tables that assess universities against the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It uses carefully calibrated indicators to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons across three broad areas: research, outreach and stewardship.

In the QS Arab Region University Rankings of 2020, 13 Emirati universities are featured among the top 50 institutions. The top-ranked HEIs in the current QS 2020 global ranking are largely the same as in the THE ranking: UAE University (5th), the American University of Sharjah (7th), Khalifa University of Science and Technology (12th), University of Sharjah (17th), Zayed University (20th), American University in Dubai (24th), Abu Dhabi University (27th), Canadian University of Dubai (41st), Ajman University (45th), American University of RAK (50th), University of Dubai (51-60), Al Ain University (101-110) and American University in the Emirates (111-120).

The QS Rankings continue to enjoy a remarkably consistent methodological framework, compiled using six simple metrics that it believes effectively capture university performance, which includes Academic Reputation, Employer Reputation, Faculty/Student Ratio, Citations per faculty, International Faculty Ratio and International Student Ratio.

QS Stars is a rating system that provides a detailed look at an institution, enabling you to identify which universities are the best in the specific topics such as, like programme strength, facilities, graduate employability, social responsibility, inclusiveness, and more.

QS Stars understands that universities are different to one another and therefore need to be assessed on a range of categories that recognise distinct strengths. It also recognises that each student is looking for something different, and not all universities - even the highest ranked institutions - suit every student.

Using QS Stars when searching for a future programme is meant to students understand which universities have performed well against a comprehensive list of indicators, allowing them to match their interests to the universities that are strong in the topics that matter.
More streams, better opportunities
The country is known for its warmth and hospitality, but is turning its focus to better academic systems. A student can opt for various disciplines for both graduate and post-graduate degrees in literature, science, law, engineering and technology. More specialised courses include MBA, aeronautical engineering, healthcare, and applied sciences in all the top universities.

With an attainable student visa, off and on campus residence facilities, food and security, the UAE has established itself among top notch universities in the world. Students can find an extensive network of alumni from the best universities to guide the freshly graduated and optimise better career opportunities in the country. Pursuing education in UAE means discovering new horizons. Although, the educational institutions in the UAE are quite young compared to the rest of the world, but the quality is equivalent to global standards.

And with the world's first Artificial Intelligence University to open in 2021 just in time before Expo Dubai, there is no looking back to what the students can achieve. The world expo will create new and futuristic job opportunities.

Furthermore, there are number of top universities that students can choose and apply to, making it helpful to pursue the careers they want. The experiences earned during the academic year enhances resumes, opening up even more career options down the road whether students attempt to pursue a job in the UAE or in their home country. Graduating from one of the top universities in the UAE provides all kinds of benefits that are likely to enhance personal and professional options throughout life. It can be life-changing!
With numerous universities offering a wide array of courses, it is advisable to spend sufficient time in exploring the courses offered by these universities. If you are an international student who wants to study in the UAE, check for the mode of instruction in a specific university. While the official language of the country is Arabic, many universities teach in English because of high influx of expatriates and international students. Visit university sites to find out the tuition fees and other pre-requites. If you belong to a non-English speaking country, a certificate of qualified TOFEL or IELTS test will be required as a proof of proficiency. Once you are determined to study in the UAE and are confident about the course, submit your application to the respective university.
Foreign university branch campus in Dubai
Heriot-Watt University
London Business School
Manchester Business School
Middlesex University
American University in Dubai
Duke's Fuqua School of Business
Hult International Business School
Michigan State University
RIT Dubai

Curtin University Dubai
Murdoch University
SAE Institute
SP Jain School of Global Management
University of Southern Queensland
University of Wollongong
Amity University
BITS Pilani
Manipal University
Canadian University Dubai
Esmod Dubai
University of Waterloo

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