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If you’d like to study in a rapidly-developing country where sun, sea and sand are a bonus you should consider joining the thousands of international students studying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The UAE is located in the middle of the Arabian Gulf and is made up of seven emirates:

  • Abu Dhabi
  • Ajman
  • Dubai
  • Fujairah
  • Ras Al Khaimah
  • Sharjah
  • Umm Al Qaiwain.

The country enjoys a sub-tropical climate, which ranges from 10 degrees in the winter to 50 degrees in the summer.

The UAE is a popular study destination, thanks to cosmopolitan cities, top-class universities and modern facilities. The fact that the majority of the population speaks English and many higher education programmes are taught in the language is another huge draw.

The UAE has extremely low levels of violent and property crime and is generally considered a safe place to live. However, to avoid falling foul of the law you’ll need to respect the country’s Islamic culture and local customs. For example, public displays of affection, fighting, public drunkenness and swearing could land you in big trouble. Contrary to popular stereotypes the rules around dress are more liberal in expat or tourist areas, where it’s acceptable to express your individual style. However, when out socially it’s wise to err on the side of modesty.

In your free time you can go on a desert safari or shopping in the spectacular Dubai Mall, experience a camel ride, visit attractions such as the Burj Khalifa or Palm Islands or take up sports including parachuting, mountaineering, dune bashing or scuba diving.

UAE universities

The UAE is dedicated to developing its education infrastructure, with a goal to becoming the world’s top provider of graduate education in the future.

The UAE’s higher education system takes influence from France, Canada, Germany, Russia, the UK and USA. The number of institutions is ever increasing but there are currently three state-funded universities and more than 50 private institutions. In fact, the UAE is home to some of the best universities in the Gulf region.

This trio of public universities includes:

  • Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) – the UAE’s largest university.
  • UAE University (UAEU) – the country’s flagship university offering many internationally accredited programmes.
  • Zayed University (ZU) – established in 1998 as a female-only institution but now open to males.

Government institutions are overseen by the Ministry of Higher Education & Scientific Research and only admit UAE nationals. Private universities and colleges are open to all students.

The most prestigious private universities include:

  • Abu Dhabi University (ADU)
  • American University in Dubai (AUD)
  • American University of Sharjah (AUS)
  • Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KU)
  • University of Sharjah (UOS).

A growing number of international institutions also have universities or campuses in the UAE, including those from Australia, Canada, the UK and USA.

There are eight UAE institutions in the QS World University Rankings 2019, these include:

  • Abu Dhabi University
  • Ajman University
  • American University in Dubai
  • American University of Sharjah
  • Khalifa University
  • United Arab Emirates University
  • University of Sharjah
  • Zayed University.

A further four UAE institutions appear in the QS University Rankings: Arab Region 2018.

For a list of accredited universities see Arabian Campus – Universities.

The academic year runs from September to June with a winter break in December and a spring break in March.

Degree courses in the UAE

Bachelors programmes at UAE institutions are available in a range of subjects and a can be studied both full and part time. Full-time courses typically take three to four years to complete.

Universities set their own admission requirements, but to be accepted onto a course international students usually need a high school leaver’s certificate or equivalent.

The majority of universities teach in English so if this is not your native language you’ll also need to prove your proficiency through an IELTS or TOEFL test. Despite the fact that many universities teach in English you may also need to prove fluency in Arabic.

To search for undergraduate degrees see Arabian Campus – Bachelor degrees.

Masters degrees

Most Masters programmes in the UAE are structured in a similar way to those in other parts of the world, with MAs and MScs available. You must have a Bachelors degree to be accepted onto a course. Programmes are taught on a full-time basis and last for one or two years. However, some courses offer the opportunity for part-time, online or distance study, with these options lasting up to five years.

Popular subjects include business administration, architecture, humanities, science and engineering. As in the UK, most Masters courses in the UAE require you to complete a thesis.

The main language of instruction is English, although some institutions may ask for demonstrable knowledge of Arabic.

Other postgraduate qualifications available include the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Executive MBA and PhD.

Search courses in the UAE at the Commission for Academic Accreditation.


Like Masters qualifications, PhDs in the UAE follow a similar structure to those in the UK. Students are required to conduct independent research and submit a thesis.

Doctoral programmes typically last three to four years, depending on your field of study. You must have a Masters degree to apply for these research-based programmes.

PhD’s are commonly taken in biotechnology, economics, engineering, science and technology.

For more information, check out Arabian Campus PhDs and Doctorates in UAE.

Student exchanges

After 50 years of rapid growth the UAE is one of the planet’s most cutting-edge locations, so it’s hardly surprising that a number of UK universities have developed campuses in the country.

The University of Middlesex has a campus in Dubai, which provides a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as well as a number of short professional courses. Heriot-Watt University also offers a variety of Bachelors and Masters courses in Dubai.

Other UK institutions with campuses in the UAE include:

  • Alliance Manchester Business School Middle East Centre
  • London Business School Dubai
  • University of Birmingham Dubai
  • University of Strathclyde Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

You may be eligible for postgraduate exchange programmes with your university, so check with your tutor or institution’s international office. The UAE institution you’re interested in attending may also be able to help.

Those studying science, engineering or technology can embark on 12-week summer placements with IAESTE UK.

Course fees

UAE citizens get to study postgraduate courses for free at public universities, but international students have to pay tuition fees. Universities in the UAE set their own fees so costs vary depending on your course, level of study and location.

Tuition fees for postgraduate courses are often expensive but the cost of programmes varies significantly. Fees can cost anything between AED 48,000 (£10,331) to AED 120,450 (£25,926).

All courses are assessed in semester credit hours. There are also additional costs to consider such as application fees, accommodation, study materials, food and travel.

Funding to study in the UAE

Tuition fees might be on the pricey side but there are a select number of funding options.

The United Arab Emirates government does not currently offer scholarship schemes for international postgraduate students, the government scholarships on offer are often reserved for UAE nationals only. However, some institutions in the country offer postgraduate study scholarships to foreign students. You might also be eligible for funding from a UK organisation, depending on what you study.

Student visas

To gain a student residence visa you will need to be sponsored by a resident of the country. If you don’t have any relatives in the UAE your university will likely do this for you, but check with your institution’s international office to make sure that they provide this service.

You’ll need to apply for the visa online, but bear in mind that sponsorship doesn’t always guarantee acceptance.

Student visas are usually only granted for one year but are renewable for the duration of your course. Application costs up to AED 3,000 (£648), plus an additional AED 1,000 (£216) deposit.

You’ll need to provide:

  • passport with at least six months validity and two blank visa pages
  • 12 passport sized photographs
  • three passport copies and an entry visa to the UAE upon arrival
  • evidence of acceptance to a UAE higher education institution
  • bank statements outlining evidence of funds
  • tenancy agreement (or a letter from your university if staying in halls)
  • copy of tuition fee receipt for the current study year of the programme
  • copy of visa fees receipt for the current study year of the programme
  • postgraduate students will also need proof of a recognised undergraduate degree.

Upon arrival in the country you’ll need to undergo a medical examination. This includes testing for HIV, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, leprosy and syphilis. If you test positive for any of these diseases, with the exception of syphilis, you’ll be deported.

In November 2018 the UAE government approved a decision to grant a five-year visa to outstanding students. To be granted this visa:

  • secondary school students must graduate with a grade of at least 95%
  • university students must graduate with a distinctive GPA of at least 3.75 from universities within or outside the country.

For more information on student visas see Arabian Campus – UAE study.

How to apply

Universities set their own application requirements. Applications for postgraduate study are usually completed online and submitted directly to your university of interest. All applications should be made by May/June prior to course start dates.

Universities ask for:

  • a completed application form
  • an application fee
  • your passport
  • certificates of educational achievement
  • references
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) certificate (if applicable).

For more information on entry criteria, contact your chosen university’s international student office.

Language requirements

The national language in the UAE is Arabic, although the majority of the population speaks fluent English. If you’re taking an English-taught course but would like to learn a second language, there are plenty of places upon arrival that offer Arabic lessons. Learning the national language may also help you to socialise and settle into your new home.

All three public universities expect you to be proficient in Arabic as well as English, while the majority of private institutions teach their programmes in English. If you’re not a native speaker of one or both of these languages you’ll need to provide proficiency test scores before being admitted onto a course.

Language requirements vary so check with your institution.


Studying in a foreign country is a great way to learn more about the world, expand your horizons, and build life experience to benefit your future education and career. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind educational experience, consider UAE study abroad programs. While the United Arab Emirates come with their own distinct rules regarding student life, they also make up a region like no other where you can experience rich history and culture. Throw out what you thought you knew about this part of the world and consider these interesting eight reasons to choose the UAE as your study abroad destination.

  • 1. Diverse Cultures Across Seven Emirates: There are seven separate emirates that make up the UAE: Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, and Abu Dhabi. In addition, each of these individual emirates has its own exclusive culture. Although English and standard Arabic are the principal languages of these areas, you are also likely to come across those who speak Punjabi, Egyptian Spoken Arabic, Somali, Tagalog, Bengali, and a host of other languages. Students come from all over the world to study at UAE universities, so choosing to study abroad here is a sure way to experience diverse cultures from all around the world.
  • 2. A Variety of Educational Options: There are many excellent universities spread across the UAE, many of which offer the best study abroad programs in UAE education. Chances are that whatever subject you wish to study, there is a university that offers it. The UAE excels in programs focusing on science, technology, business, and more. In some cases, international students may be able to focus on working or completing an internship to further their degree and career options as opposed to only taking classes. As far as study abroad programs go, you may be able to find options as short as one term or semester and as long as a full year or more. Keep in mind that most universities in the UAE do not allow international students to work. To better afford your education, consider looking for a scholarship for abroad study at UAE universities.
  • 3. Safe Learning Environment: If you rely solely on the media to learn what the rest of the world is like, you might think the UAE is in a constant state of turmoil. However, this could not be further from the truth. The UAE is actually a safe and peaceful place to study. Students are likely to find the residents warm, welcoming, and willing to share their culture and learn about others. On-campus dormitories tend to have strict regulations for campus living, but there are also off-campus options where you can really live up the student life.
  • 4. Sunny Weather: If you enjoy beautiful beaches and hot weather, then the UAE is definitely the right place for you to study abroad. Hitting up the beach is the perfect way to relax after hours of studying. Consider visiting popular sites such as Marina Beach or Jumeirah Public Beach in Dubai, or travel to Saadiyat Public Beach or Corniche Beach in Abu Dhabi for a good time. There is also little need to worry about getting too cold in this desert region. If you are concerned about the heat, there is no need to stress – most areas encourage students and residents to stay indoors when the temperatures go up. In addition, most buildings have air conditioning to keep everyone comfortable.
  • 5. Bargaining, Belly Dancing, and More: Another reason to consider the UAE for your study abroad experience is for the activities and unique experiences available on the streets every day. If you enjoy shopping, hiking, or learning something new like belly dancing, then there are plenty of opportunities. Another distinctive feature of the UAE is bargaining. It is very likely that when you go out to a souk – also known as a market or bazaar – you will need to bargain or haggle with a shop owner to get the best price. If you struggle at first, do not get discouraged; there will be many opportunities to hone this skill.
  • 6. Travel Opportunities: The UAE is basically the ideal hub from which to branch out and see many parts of the world. There are international airports in Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi. At most, you are within a short plane ride to see amazing locations in Bahrain, Turkey, Egypt, India, Morocco, Kenya, Nepal, and many more countries. Do you feel like taking an excursion to Europe? It is closer than you think. If you love to travel, then the UAE is the perfect place to study and satisfy your travel urges in your spare time.
  • 7. Life-changing Experiences: The greatest benefits of studying in a foreign country is meeting unique people and gaining unforgettable experiences. You have the opportunity to build lifelong friendships and relationships with people who have backgrounds very different from your own. While you are learning about a new culture, you also get to share yours with everyone around you. You might think that studying abroad is all about the experiences you personally have, but the truth is that it also creates life-changing experiences for everyone you come in contact with.
  • 8. Better CV and Career Options: While there are not many UAE study and work abroad options that earn you money while you are a student, you may still be able to find internships and other opportunities to build your CV. Becoming a study abroad student comes with all kinds of benefits, including helping you increase your independence, time management, problem-solving skills, and open-mindedness. Your experiences earned while on study abroad enhance your CV to open up even more career options down the road whether you attempt to pursue a job in the UAE or in your home country. Studying abroad anywhere in the world provides all kinds of benefits that are likely to enhance your personal and professional options throughout your life. Find a variety of study abroad programs in the UAE by searching with SchoolApply today.

Why study in dubai you ask?

There are many fantastic reasons to study in Dubai. Here are our five best ones for choosing this cosmopolitan city as the location to start your academic journey. Read on to find out…

It’s a Tourist’s Dream Destination

Dubai, located on the Arabian gulf, isn’t just full of natural attractions such as the stunning sandy beaches and warm waters. There are also popular man-made attractions such as the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo and the Burj Al Arab – this iconic landmark is a must-see! For those who love to shop, Dubai is also home to an impressive array of shopping malls; big brands and designer boutiques are ubiquitous in the City of Gold. Knowing the popularity of Dubai for holiday-makers, students can feel safe in the knowledge that Dubai is full of fun and exciting things to see and do.

Heaven for Foodies

Dubai is home to some 180 nationalities and this becomes evident when eating out. Cultural diversity is apparent in the city’s culinary scene; there’s no chance of getting bored when dining out in Dubai. Japanese to Indian; Lebanese to Filipino and much, much more. If you like to try new dishes and flavours, Dubai is perfect for you.

Fun Atmosphere

The population of Dubai is made up of 85% expatriates; it comes as little surprise then that Dubai welcomes and celebrates a wide variety of cultures, faiths and interests. People of other faiths are free to follow their religion. The cosmopolitan nature of the city creates an international, vibrant atmosphere that’s ideal for students. For those who are adventurers at heart, there are many fun activities to participate in, from diving and watersports, to desert safaris, not to mention sightseeing, the culinary delights and fashion.

Safe for Students

Dubai remains a very safe place to live. This is due to the strong moral code of conduct, as Dubai residents adhere to the Sharia Law. This means that for those who choose to live in Dubai, there are some important dos and don’ts to consider and abide by. These include; no drinking alcohol in public places, no swearing or rude gestures in public, both men and women are encouraged to cover their skin and not wear garments that are too tight, additionally, showing affection in public is frowned upon.

A Great Place to Meet New People

In Dubai you are certain to meet people from a wide variety of backgrounds, upbringings, religions etc. Since Dubai is such a popular destination, you’re certain to meet many new people and have a fantastic time socialising while you study.












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