Overview

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation consisting of seven independent emirates or city-states. It is located in the southeastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, and is bordered by Oman and Saudi Arabia.

UAE

Capital City: Abu Dhabi
Area Size: 83,600 km2
Official Language: Arabic
Type of Government: Federation with an advisory body (Federal National Council)
Currency: Dirham (AED)
Population: 49,665,000 (2020 estimate)

UAE’s seven emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Umm al-Qaiwain, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ra’s al Khaimah, and Ajman. The country’s economy is dominated by its oil trade, especially in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Why Study in the UAE

In 2016, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Statistics reported that 77,463 international students were studying in the UAE and the number is expected to rise 4% annually.

Aside from the fact that UAE is quickly becoming one of the economic giants in the world, what are the other reasons why students are choosing the UAE as their study destination?

World-Class Education

One of the reasons for its high number of international students is the UAE’s offer of world-class education, which is reflected in the many global rankings its higher education institutions (HEIs) constantly rank in.

International students also find higher education in the UAE accessible because classes are taught in English, despite Arabic being the country’s national language.

  • 8 of its HEIs ranked in the 2021 QS World University Rankings
  • 5 of its HEIs ranked in the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Safety and Security

The media usually paints the Arab states of the Persian Gulf as areas that are always in conflict. However, the situation in the UAE is very far from this image.

In fact, the UAE is one of the safest countries in the world. According to the 2020 Global Peace Index, the state of peace in the country is high. Its average country score is even better than that of the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Greece. It’s the third safest country in the Middle East next to Qatar and Kuwait.

Cultural Diversity

The UAE is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the Persian Gulf. Each of its seven emirates has its own set of traditions and cultures.

Other nationalities have also made the country their home. In fact, when you study the country, other languages you can hear aside from English and Arabic are Farsi, Filipino, Bengali, Punjabi, etc. Cultural diversity in the UAE is even supported by its leaders, who regards it as a source of strength and a force for social progress and development.

Career Booster

One of the perks of studying abroad is the chance to boost your career opportunities after studying. Students who studied abroad have higher employability chances compared to their peers who did not have international education. In addition, studying in the UAE enables students to widen their network in one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Stayback Opportunity and the Chance to Work Tax-Free

The UAE does not levy income tax to individuals, and this includes expats. International students who graduate in the UAE have higher chances of landing a job in the country and experiencing a tax-free work environment.

Talented individuals planning to work in the UAE can look for a job, thanks to the country’s extended visa program. These students can apply for a student visa that is valid for up to five years.

In Abu Dhabi, PhD or students with outstanding scientific ability are encouraged to settle in the UAE.

Unique Student Experience

Work While Studying

Previously, the UAE did not allow foreign students to take on jobs while studying and can only work during internship programs. However, in 2016, the UAE started to allow international students to work part-time for designated employers.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation now issues a work permit to employers wanting to employ foreign students. The permit ensures students are provided a safe work environment.

In Dubai, international students enrolled in one of its 23 academic institutions can work part-time in various sectors including ICT, media and entertainment, design, outsourcing, life sciences, and higher education, among others.

Different Weekends

Students who are not that familiar with the UAE may be surprised to know that having fun during the weekends starts Thursday night, and not Friday night. In 2006, the UAE made Friday and Saturday its official weekend days.

During weekends when not doing schoolwork, students can explore all that the UAE has to offer. They can learn about the different ruling families in each emirate, visit attractions such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, marvel at the traditional Islamic architecture in Sharjah, go to the beach in Fujairah, or have a desert adventure away from the bustling cities.

Application Process

The United Arab Emirates does not have a centralized system for application so students have to directly consult the education institution they are applying to and check its admission requirements for each program and level.

Students planning to apply in a UAE educational institution need the following:

  1. Application form from the student’s choice of institution
  2. Original and certified copy of high school certificate or equivalent
  3. Valid passport and its copy
  4. Personal picture passport size
  5. Transcript of records from high school or university for credit transfer
  6. Proof of English proficiency

There may be other documents required, depending on the institution and academic program.

Student Visa

Students aged 18 and above who want to study in the UAE need to apply for a student visa.

To get a student visa, students need a sponsor, either through an accredited higher education institution or a relative. A student visa is only valid for one year, and is renewable as long as the student can show proof they are continuing their studies.

For students with outstanding GPAs, they can apply for a long-term visa, which is valid for five years.

The key requirements for a UAE student visa are the following:

  1. Official admission letter from the university
  2. Proof of medical fitness test
  3. Visa sponsor
  4. General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) approval from the relevant emirate.
  5. Valid passport

Additional Information

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees in the UAE educational institutions vary according to location, institution, and level of study.

For example, in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, the tuition fee in Abu Dhabi University would usually cost around AED 21,600 to 34,260 per semester, depending on the undergraduate program. Postgraduate programs on the other hand cost around AED 8,640 to 22,680 per semester.

Aside from tuition fees, new students may also have to pay for registration and application fees.

Other Expenses

The cost of living in the UAE is quite expensive, so it's important that students are familiar with the cost of some basic necessities including rent and food to be able to budget well. Below are some estimates for each necessity:

Rent - AED 3000 to 4000 (per month)
Food - AED 28 to 30 (per meal)
Transportation - AED 107 (per month)
Utilities - AED 607 (per month)

Note that school accommodation is cheaper than renting outside the educational institution.

Scholarships and Education Funding

Tuition fees in the UAE vary per region or emirate. In Abu Dhabi and Dubai, tuition fees are more expensive. Students needing financial assistance when it comes to higher education should not despair, because the UAE offers various financial aid and scholarships. Most scholarships are offered by the educational institutions themselves and the UAE government.