Economic Update

Published 27 Jul 2017

A move by the UAE to increase the number of places available at its public universities for the 2017/18 academic year is set to benefit prospective students in Dubai.

Boosting take-up

In early July the national Cabinet approved plans to fund an additional 3000 places at the UAE’s public universities, with many set to be offered at Dubai’s higher education institutions.

The additional funding, along with a proposal to index universities’ budgets to the number of students registered, will allow almost all of the 3400 Emiratis who missed out on a place at university in 2016/17 to enrol in the coming academic year, officials said.

Around 16,000 Emirati students applied for places at state universities last year, with just over 13,000 passing the entrance exams. However, with only 9782 places available, around 25% of those eligible to enrol found themselves unable to access the country’s public tertiary education system.  

Broader opportunities

Doors are also opening outside of the public sector. Mid-June brought news that higher education institutions operating within the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Dubai Knowledge Park (DKP) were set to begin offering scholarships and other support valued at more than Dh35m ($9.5m) in 2017. The efforts are part of the so-called Year of Giving – a federal campaign aimed at encouraging corporate social responsibility – with some 2800 students expected to receive assistance.

Institutions rolling out tuition waivers and scholarships as part of the initiative include the Amity University Dubai Campus, Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus, Murdoch University Dubai, Manipal University Dubai, American University in the Emirates and the University of Wollongong in Dubai.

Announcing the scholarships, Mohammed Abdullah, the managing director of DIAC and DKP, said the programme would help meet the increasingly wide-ranging educational needs of individuals, while simultaneously deepening Dubai’s skills pool.

The American University in Dubai (AUD) has also taken steps to make more educational opportunities available.

In mid-June the university announced plans to team up with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation to provide scholarships for UAE students looking to study journalism through the Mohammed Bin Rashid School for Communication.

The scholarships form part of a wider programme of educational support offered by the AUD, following an announcement in May of plans to work with the state to provide Dh30m ($8.2m) worth of media studies scholarships. Approximately 200 local students are expected to benefit.  

Funding boost

The financial assistance being made available should come as welcome news for prospective students and their families, particularly as the UAE has a reputation for being an expensive place to pursue tertiary education.

According to HSBC, the country’s education costs are the second highest in the world, after Hong Kong. The bank’s “Value of Education” report, released in early July, put the cost of educating a child in the UAE from kindergarten through to a four-year university course at $99,378, more than double the global average.

Additional funding for more places and scholarships could also help stem the number of tertiary-level students leaving the UAE for university.

The same HSBC study found that 58% of parents in Dubai and the rest of the UAE would consider allowing their child to study at a university abroad, the second-highest level after Indonesia, and well above the global average of 35%.

Team effort

In keeping with efforts to retain local talent, closer collaboration between the private sector and the state is also helping to drive the government’s innovation agenda and bridge skills gaps before graduates enter the marketplace.

Randa Bessiso, Middle East Director of the University of Manchester, told OBG that collaborative ventures between private firms and academic institutions were proving to be beneficial for both the education sector and the UAE’s broader economy.

“Free zones and purpose-built, international branch campuses, for example, have been particularly effective in supporting the development of education,” she said. “Both DKP and DIAC have attracted some of the world’s premier institutions because of these innovative collaborations between government, industry and academia.”