17th Apr, 2019

The UAE's higher education sector is seeing a boost as post-study visas for students, quality assurance schemes and expansion of university programmes roll out in the country. Dubai, in particular, has become the world's largest hub for international branch campuses, with 33 universities currently operational. The emirate has beaten other popular education destinations like Singapore and Malaysia.

Several initiatives were launched recently to position the UAE as an education destination for international students - a five and 10-year visa scheme was introduced for talented university graduates, enabling them to seek work. The Ministry of Education also introduced a new licensing scheme for quality assurance. Universities are also launching a wide range of undergraduate programmes to attract more international students.

"The efforts are between the government and institutions and we work hard to position Dubai for international students. One of the attractive point for international students to come to Dubai is that it's one of the safest places in the world," Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director-general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), told Khaleej Times during the sidelines of Gulf Education and Training Exhibition (Getex).

"A lot of these campuses work on having students here for two years and then go to the mother campus for another one year and come back again. We have seen a boost when the work permit was introduced for students; it was a key milestone to achieve. Long-term visas for students and for faculty in specalised areas were very important. These legislations help and reemphasise that Dubai is a destination for higher education."

About 220 universities are showcasing their programmes to students at the Getex, which is taking place at the Dubai World Trade Centre until April 19.

Middlesex University Dubai is one of the higher education institutions that is now actively recruiting international students since the new post-study visa scheme was launched. They've also introduced a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to attract students, some which include graphic design, fashion design, digital media and data science.

Cody Morris Paris, deputy director of academic planning and research at Middlesex University Dubai, said: "We've been actively marketing and recruiting internationally - anywhere that really Emirates flies from, such as South America, Central Asia, Gulf and Africa. We've seen our international numbers grow."

He said the new visa scheme is a major appeal to these international students. "The opportunities for students to gain practical experience at workplaces while they're studying is an attractive offer for the students," he added.

A relatively new university in Dubai, Curtin University, is also seeing a boost in the number of students. They currently have 200 students since they first opened last September and another 400 will be joining by the end of this year. It plans to double its academic facilities in Dubai International Academic City as they plan to add another 20,000sqft by 2020. They've also launched six new programmes.

Daniel Adkins, CEO of Transnational Academic Group - the education management services provider for Curtin University Dubai- said: "One thing that definitely sets us apart is our ranking as we're in the top one per cent of universities in the world and we have recognition by many external accrediting and certification bodies."