Studying in the United Arab Emirates

Studying in the United Arab Emirates

Most United Arab Emirates (UAE) universities are based on a similar structure to the North American system; however, more international universities, including those from Australia, Canada and the UK, are establishing sites in the UAE which follow the system of their country of origin. Postgraduate courses are generally available at Masters and doctorate/PhD level.

Postgraduate courses are available at public or private colleges and universities and most are licensed by the UAE Ministry of Education via the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) to ensure quality.

The three public universities are:

  • UAE University
  • Zayed University
  • Higher Colleges of Technology.

There is also a wide range of private institutions, many of which have international accreditations, as well as accreditation through the CAA. In addition, some international universities have campuses or programmes in the UAE. Some UK-based universities, such as Heriot-Watt University, the University of Strathclyde and the University of Bolton, offer postgraduate courses in the UAE.

What courses can you study?

A searchable database of licensed institutions and accredited courses, including postgraduate courses, can be found on the CAA website.

Postgraduate courses are available in many subject areas including business, communication technology and media, education, engineering, languages and translation sciences, fine arts, health sciences and medicine, social sciences, law and police science, IT and hospitality and tourism. You can also study for an MBA. In many institutions, courses are delivered in both Arabic and English.

You can search for UAE universities according to their ranking using Top Universities and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

How do you apply for postgraduate study?

Applications for postgraduate study are made directly to the individual institutions and are usually made online. Check the websites of institutions you're interested in to gain full information about entry requirements and application deadlines.

For most applications, your academic certificates will need to be certified in the UK before the institution makes a decision.

Fees and scholarships

Fees and costs vary depending on the institution and course. Depending on the subject studied, fees can be expensive and must be paid by all international students. Contact the institution you're interested in studying with for details. Fees are usually shown yearly, by semester and per credited hour.

You will also have to pay a number of other fees, including an application fee, and must have health insurance. You'll also need to pay for accommodation, food, travel, and books and other study materials.

UAE government scholarships are usually only open to UAE nationals. However, several universities in the UAE offer postgraduate-study scholarships to international students so check if you're eligible before you apply. In some circumstances, you may be able to secure funding from a UK organisation, depending on what you study.

Are there any exchange programmes?

Many UAE institutions have links with overseas universities and although there is no formal exchange programme, you may be able to organise one with an institution yourself. Some UK universities with campuses in the UAE may offer a joint study programme, with time being spent both in the UK and the UAE.

Will your qualifications be recognised in the UK?

Check with the university or higher education institution where you are hoping to study to see if their qualification is recognised or has an equivalent in the UK.

Do you need a visa to study in the United Arab Emirates?

If you're planning to study in the UAE, the university must sponsor your student visa. To do this, they must be licensed and approved by the UAE Ministry of Education. The student residence visa is valid for 12 months and is renewable for the duration of your course. Student visa fees vary between institutions and typically range from 1,000 to 3,000 AED for a one-year visa. As part of your visa application you must pass a medical examination. Individuals testing positive for HIV or hepatitis will be deported. 

Written by AGCAS editors, November 2016