Sharjah is home to a diverse array of educational institutions, professional development centres, and local and international schools that play host to a multicultural student body. Two universities within the emirate ranked in the top-500 institutions in the 2024 QS World University Rankings, with the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah placing 364th and 465th, respectively. Due to continued investment, the emirate is a centre for higher education, research and development in the GCC, with Sharjah’s free zones serving as innovation centres attracting global talent. The UAE secured the top position in North Africa and West Asia in international business school INSEAD’s 2023 Global Talent Competitiveness Index and was ranked 22nd globally, and policymakers at the federal and emirate levels have demonstrated a commitment to developing a future-ready workforce capable of meeting the evolving needs of the economy.

Federal Restructuring

The UAE’s Ministry of Education (MoE) manages federal policies, strategies and legislation for the national education system; oversees curricula and tools for public schools; and supervises international exams. Private schools are required to abide by certain parameters established by the MoE, but they are also allowed greater leeway when it comes to determining their curricula. The UAE system is based on the K-12 model, with students able to continue their education following their completion of grade 12 at one of the UAE’s universities, or institutes of technical and vocational education and training.

In May 2022 the UAE unveiled a significant overhaul of its education system with the appointment of three ministers: Ahmad Belhoul Al Falasi as minister of education, charged with reviewing legislation and policies pertaining to the country’s education system; Sarah Al Amiri as minister of state for public education and advanced technology, and chair of the board of directors of the Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE), tasked with creating a comprehensive plan to improve the country’s public schools; and Sara Musallam as minister of state for early education, overseeing the newly established Federal Authority for Early Childhood Education. Key entities within this revamped structure include the Federal Authority for Early Childhood Education, which is responsible for developing and implementing plans for early childhood development, setting regulations and standards, issuing licences and collaborating with parents. The authority focuses its efforts on students through grade 4. Additionally, the Federal Authority for Quality and Standards of Education measures education outcomes, student performance and process efficiency. The Education and Human Resources Council – chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE’s minister of foreign affairs – is tasked with supervising a project on the future of education, and establishing a long-term vision and objectives for the sector.

Structure & Oversight

While the MoE is the primary body overseeing education policy and strategy at all levels in the UAE, the ministry is supported by relevant regulators at the emirate level. In Sharjah, the main local body tasked with supporting the MoE was the Sharjah Education Council (SEC) until its dissolution by Emiri Decree No. 11 of 2023 issued in March of that year. The decree established a permanent committee affiliated with the federal government called the Sharjah Award for Educational Excellence and Parents Councils. Following the dissolution of the SEC, the Sharjah Education Academy (SEA), a non-profit institution established by Emiri decree in June 2020 that specialises in academic and vocational training for educators, took on the responsibilities that were previously the remit of the SEC’s early childhood department.

In addition to these bodies, the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) oversaw 127 private schools, 145 private nurseries and kindergartens, and 66 private training centres as of October 2022. The authority evaluates the performance of each private facility annually through its Itqan assessment programme, which assesses efforts to implement programmes that aid in meeting the emirate’s education goals. The SPEA is currently working towards the objectives of its 2022-24 strategy launched in March 2022, which sets eight targets for institutions under its purview to be achieved by the end of 2024. These include 100% of institutions deploying proactive digital services and international benchmarking test results improving by 20%.

Early & General Education

Early education in Sharjah spans nurseries – typically for children one to three years of age – and kindergarten for children aged four and five. In terms of their classification, early education is known as Cycle 0 in the UAE. This stage is then followed by compulsory education from grades 1 through 12, which spans three cycles. Cycle 1 includes grades 1 through 5 for ages 6 to 10; Cycle 2 spans grades 6 through 9 for ages 11 to 14; and Cycle 3 covers grades 10, 11 and 12, with students finishing secondary school at the ages of 17 or 18.

Early Childhood

In recognition of the importance of quality early childhood education for holistic development, gender equality and social equity, in June 2023 Sharjah hosted a two-day regional Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) conference. Organised by UNESCO in collaboration with the UAE government, the SPEA, the SEA, the Sharjah Supreme Council for Family Affairs and the Sharjah Child Friendly Office, the event aimed to foster knowledge exchange and increase investment in ECCE to boost sustainable development. The conference’s highlights included specific objectives to assess regional progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4.2, which aims to ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education by 2030 to be prepared for primary education.

Participants at the event exchanged knowledge on enablers, identified priorities to accelerate progress, strengthened regional partnerships and explored Sharjah’s experience in ECCE. The agenda focused on critical areas like inclusion, quality and well-being; the ECCE workforce and caregivers; programme innovations; and policy, governance and finance. These underscore Sharjah’s commitment to its pre-school education system, and to the global dialogue on early childhood care and education. As part of its commitment to raising domestic ECCE standards, the SEA offers three distinct early childhood education certification programmes for school leaders, teachers and classroom assistants.

Ajyal Schools

In an effort to expand choice, improve learning outcomes and stimulate innovation in primary education, for the 2022/23 academic year the ESE introduced a new model for public Cycle-1 schools in the UAE known as Ajyal Schools, which blend the national curriculum (Arabic language, Islamic education, moral education and social studies) with the US curriculum (mathematics, science and other subjects).

Implemented in 10 Cycle-1 public schools for the 2022/23 academic year, the model was put in place in an additional eight Cycle-1 public schools for the 2023/24 academic year, with plans for another 10 Cycle-1 schools to become Ajyal schools in the 2024/25 academic year. Operated by the private educational entities Taaleem, Bloom and Aldar Education under the ESE’s supervision, Ajyal Schools offer various educational models, propagate an effective partnership between public and private education entities, reinforce national identity and societal values, and foster collaboration with parents in assessing students’ educational progress. As of December 2023 four schools in Sharjah were operating under the blended Ajyal model. The model is set to be evaluated after the initial three-year period to assess its effectiveness, appeal and scalability. Only Emirati students and the children of Emirati mothers can apply to attend the schools.

Shorter Week

In tandem with the UAE’s nationwide efforts towards policy formulation and the emirate’s introduction of a four-day working week for public sector workers starting in January 2022, the SPEA introduced a four-day school week for all private schools in the emirate, effective from January 1, 2022. Under the new directive, the school day was extended by 90 minutes to ensure that students still received enough teaching time. The move to a four-day week in employment and education was designed to align with global trends towards flexible working schedules and improve the work-life balance of Sharjah residents, making it a more attractive place to live and work.

According to initial assessments, the transition has had a positive impact on productivity, and has generated wider benefits in relation to quality of life for students, educators and parents. SPEA research published in April 2023 indicated that the shift to a fourday week had resulted in a 77% increase in academic achievement among students; a 78% rise in their social skills and interactions; a 74% boost in their capacity for problem-solving; a 73% improvement in their time management abilities; a 78% rise in their achievement on assignments; as well as an 88% increase in their capacity for spending quality time with their families.

In July 2023 the SPEA released a more comprehensive report that collected feedback from various stakeholders, revealing widespread satisfaction with the shorter work week. Despite initial concerns, the study recorded improvements in the quality of life for students and educators, including greater personal time, fewer family expenses, and positive impacts on physical and mental well-being. While Emirati parents expressed high rates of satisfaction, acknowledging the positive effects on their children’s school attendance and overall productivity, challenges such as longer school days and time management issues were also noted. To address these issues, the SPEA recommended promoting extracurricular activities, teaching time management skills, enhancing staff time management procedures, prioritising quality learning and providing regular monitoring and feedback.

Language Courses

Sharjah’s main cultural centre, the House of Wisdom, offers immersive language courses through its Wisdom Speaks language development programme. In addition to its Arabic and English courses, in August 2023 the House of Wisdom announced new courses in Spanish and Japanese, with the aim being to provide participants with linguistic proficiency and a deep understanding of the respective cultures. The Spanish courses are led by educators from the UCAM Catholic University of Murcia’s Spanish Language Institute, while the Japanese courses have been developed in collaboration with UAE-based Eton Institute, the country’s only EAQUALS-accredited language school. Courses are available for beginners, and intermediate and advanced students, and they include cultural experiences alongside formal education.

Job Training

In an effort to enhance the integration of Emirati students into the private sector and bridge the gap between academia and the labour market, in September 2023 the UAE announced the launch of a training programme targeting students starting from grade 9. Overseen by the country’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the initial one-year pilot phase for the programme involves 3500 students. Subsequently, by 2028 the programme is set to expand to include all students from grade 9 onwards.

The initiative aims to encourage collaboration with the private sector to provide financial incentives to students, as well as to help them better understand companies operating in the private sector and gain the requisite skills for future careers. The programme does so via three model initiatives: the certified intern model, which offers students two- to fourweek work opportunities; the exchange model, which gives students in bachelor’s programmes mandatory practical experience; and the dual learning model, which requires students to complete eight weeks of practical work experience. This strategic move aligns with the government’s broader goal of reshaping local perceptions of the private sector, promoting career opportunities that align with academic pathways and fostering professional relationships to support the UAE’s objective of increasing Emirati participation in the private sector.

Additionally, located within University City of Sharjah, Sharjah Research, Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) has partnered with educational institutions to provide training programmes and courses in coding and computer science. The initiative aims to equip students with the skills to thrive in the digital age.

University Landscape

Sharjah is a regional centre for education and is expanding learning opportunities throughout the emirate. In June 2022 Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah, inaugurated the University of Khorfakkan – formerly a branch of the University of Sharjah. This was followed by the September 2023 launch of the University of Kalba. Additionally, Al Dhaid University is expected to open in 2024.

University City of Sharjah is the largest cluster of such academic institutions in the region. The area is home to more than 47,000 students annually from over 100 countries, including more than 2000 pursuing PhD programmes across various disciplines. Among the institutions operating in the cluster is the American University of Sharjah, which offers 28 majors and 45 minors in addition to 16 master’s programmes, with nearly three-quarters of its student body coming from outside of the UAE, according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2024.

Meanwhile, the University of Sharjah is home to more than 19,000 students as of the 2023/24 academic year. With 14 colleges, 127 accredited programmes and three research institutes, the university is known for its programmes in health sciences, medicine, fine arts and design, engineering and communications. Other institutions of higher education include the Higher College of Technology Sharjah, the Sharjah Police Science Academy, the Sharjah Performing Arts Academy, the UAE’s Judicial Training Institute, the Sharjah Academy for Astronomy Space Sciences and Technology, as well as various entities for Arabic, Islamic and heritage studies. University City of Sharjah fosters a productive academic environment, spanning the undergraduate to doctorate levels, and ensures the continuous exchange of ideas and research, in addition to a pool of qualified graduates for the Sharjah and UAE labour markets.


Scholarships are used in Sharjah’s higher education system to make learning opportunities more affordable and accessible. In August 2023 Sheikh Sultan approved 2005 scholarships for undergraduate students in the 2023/24 academic year. A total of 1600 scholarships were distributed among the University of Sharjah and the American University of Sharjah, with 305 scholarships going to students at the University of Khorfakkan for the 2023/24 academic year and the remaining 100 to students at the University of Kalba.

Research & Investment

Beyond universities, SRTIP contributes to Sharjah’s research and innovation ecosystem. The park taps into the available pool of talent and collaborates with government, commercial and academic partners to facilitate research and development, from projects’ conception and piloting, to their commercialisation and widespread adoption. SRTIP has been successful in attracting innovation-driven multinational firms, SMEs and start-ups. The park provides an environment for innovators from over 150 academic institutions, companies and start-ups to collaborate. Among its notable projects is SkyWay, a hanging railway system that moves passengers in pods along a suspended line, which could transform the public transport sector and provide an example for the rest of the country when it comes to developing sustainable forms of public transport (see Transport chapter).

Elsewhere, the Green Homes Project, part of the Sustainable Technologies Research Site of UAE-based consumer electronics company Merlin Digital, is working to build houses using advanced polymeric compounds and aerospace technology that can be assembled in a single day. SRTIP also is host to the Sharjah Open Innovation Lab, which provides students, entrepreneurs and technology innovators with access to labs, software and machinery. In an effort to improve the funding environment for start-ups, SRTIP houses the Sharjah Angel Investors Network, which provides interested high-net-worth individuals with a comprehensive training programme covering angel investment, risk diversification, deal negotiation and entrepreneur engagement. In subsequent stages, investors learn how to actively pursue deals and support high-potential companies in the field of emerging technology.

As Sharjah looks to strengthen its knowledge ecosystem further, there are numerous opportunities for private investors to generate long-term returns. One area with potential for greater private investment is specialised vocational academies that target key sectors such as hospitality, transport and logistics, and additive manufacturing. These can tap into the expanding market demand in the UAE. Taking into account Sharjah’s commitment to innovation, investment opportunities can be found in research laboratories that facilitate collaboration between government entities, academia and businesses. Additionally, there is significant potential for investment in early childhood education, as Sharjah aims to enhance childcare options – including nurseries and kindergarten offerings – to support women in the workplace as its population expands.


Sharjah is positioned for significant advancements in education, research and innovation, underpinned by the productive ecosystem of University City of Sharjah. Recent federal and emirate-level reforms, and restructuring in early childhood and general education signal a move towards boosting efficiency and standards, and nurturing a future-ready workforce. Meanwhile, scholarships and initiatives that aim to expand learning options beyond the classroom, and foster linkages between academia and industry demonstrate a commitment to inclusive and holistic education. Looking ahead, private investment inflows into vocational training centres, research and innovation facilities, and early childhood learning centres should further strengthen Sharjah’s knowledge ecosystem and support the long-term development of a diversified and high-tech economy in the emirate.