Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
11th Oct 2017

Dubai strengthens its position as a regional education hub

Dubai is the largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates. It has clearly established itself as a major centre for trade and investment in the Middle East, and, increasingly, it is taking shape as an important regional study destination as well. And no wonder. Dubai is home to more than 200 nationalities today, and 90% of the city’s population comes from abroad. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s population is within an eight-hour flight, and the city is widely recognised for its outstanding transportation and communications infrastructure. US News & World Report recently ranked the UAE as one of the best countries in the world in which to begin a career, as “one of the Gulf’s most liberal countries”, and as the safest Arab-majority country.

Booming school population

As we reported last year, the UAE is the leading country in the world in terms of the number of students attending English-medium K-12 international schools. Recent International School Consultancy (ISC) research indicates that there are more than 550 English-medium K-12 international schools across the UAE, with nearly half of those in Dubai. There are roughly 550,000 students aged between 3 and 18 in English-medium international schools in the UAE – the highest enrolment of any country in the world by a significant margin. A new report from the UAE’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) offers a more detailed look at private-sector K-12 schools in Dubai. It counts 185 private schools in Dubai with a combined enrolment of just under 274,000 students. As of the 2016/17 school year, the sector is close to capacity (about 90% utilisation currently), and total spending on private school tuition fees amounts to 6.8 billion AED (US$1.85 billion) annually. Only about 12% of the students in private schools in Dubai are native Emiratis. In contrast, Indian students, the largest single nationality in Dubai schools, make up just over a third (34%) of the total enrolment. Pakistan, Egypt, and the UK are also well represented. leading-nationalities-in-private-k12-schools-in-dubai-2016/17 Leading nationalities in private K-12 schools in Dubai, 2016/17. Source: KHDA Overall, the number of private schools in Dubai has nearly doubled in the past decade, and enrolment has kept pace with overall growth of 89% over the last ten years. Looking ahead, KHDA forecasts another 120 schools will open their doors in the coming decade, and projects that total enrolment in the city’s private schools will reach 470,000 over the same period.

Bright outlook for higher education

The burgeoning population of non-Emirati students in Dubai schools means the city is also growing in importance as a recruiting ground for third-country nationals planning to go on further education abroad. But Dubai is also aggressively moving to grow its own higher education capacity, both by expanding the footprint of domestic institutions and by welcoming branch campuses operated by foreign institutions. Universities from 12 different exporting markets currently operate campuses in designated higher education “free zones” in Dubai, including those from the UK, US, Australia, India, Austria, and Russia. Considering both international branch campuses and local institutions, there are now 62 higher education providers in Dubai. Those institutions had a combined enrolment of 60,300 students in 2016, including 33,600 foreign nationals. The number of higher education institutions operating in the city began to expand rapidly around 2003, the year in which the first of Dubai’s free zones for education were established. Also setting the stage for more rapid enrolment growth within the past decade, the KHDA and University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAID) were established – in 2007 and 2008 respectively – in order to provide greater oversight and quality assurance for higher education in the Emirates. As the following chart reflects, 39 of Dubai’s 62 HEIs are now located within the free zones, including 24 international branch campuses. higher-education-provider-growth-in-dubai-1986-2017 Higher education provider growth in Dubai, 1986–2017. Source: KHDA Keeping pace with this significant increase in the number of university seats, total higher education enrolment in Dubai has grown by nearly 65% since 2008, with overall foreign enrolment across the UAE growing even more quickly. UNESCO reports that the number of foreign students in the Emirates grew from about 48,600 in 2011 to nearly 74,000 in 2015 – a total increase of 51% in just five years. Speaking at the recent International and Private Schools Education Forum (IPSEF) in Dubai, Dr Warren Fox, the KHDA’s chief of higher education, said, “Dubai has shown to the world it can become a leading global business hub, and is leveraging this success to attract international students to come to the Emirate to pursue higher education studies here. This reputation as a world-class commercial and trading centre is one of the top reasons why international students are coming to Dubai.” For additional background, please see: • “UAE leads the world in English-medium international school enrolments” • “Using social media to reach students in the Middle East and North Africa” • “English skills a key for mobility and employment in the Middle East and North Africa

Most Recent

  • Survey reveals students’ views on AI in study search and admissions Read More
  • US increases visa handling capacity in India Read More
  • International education a focal point of debate in Australia as the prospect of further regulation looms Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Survey reveals students’ views on AI in study search and admissions IDP’s Emerging Futures is one of those larger student surveys that is always worth paying attention to, and...
Read more
US increases visa handling capacity in India American universities and colleges are being supported by their federal government in ramping up their competitive offer to...
Read more
International education a focal point of debate in Australia as the prospect of further regulation looms It didn’t take long for Australian schools and universities to recover their international student numbers once Australia’s border...
Read more
Is Canada losing ground as a preferred destination for Indian students? A featured panel at the annual Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) conference in Vancouver this week raised...
Read more
How is Indian student mobility changing in 2023? The shape of outbound mobility from India has changed over the course of 2023, with the UK and...
Read more
International enrolment in Canadian K-12 recovered to more than 80% of pre-pandemic levels in 2022/23 Canada’s K-12 public schools enrolled just over 33,000 foreign students in 2022/23. That total includes nearly 29,000 in...
Read more
Impact of UK’s dependant visa policy shows as nearly half of business schools miss targets In what appears to be an early signal of the impact of an important change to UK visa...
Read more
US: New coalition pushes for coordinated national strategy for international education Of the leading destinations for study abroad, only the US does not have an official international education strategy....
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links