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UAE education trend watch: International students choose Dubai for university over US and UK overseas higher education alternatives

Increasing numbers of students from across the world are flocking to Dubai for university and other higher education options, according to new data revealed by Dubai’s private-education-providers regulator Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Dubai’s international higher education institutions reported annual enrolment growth of 3.6 per cent, with more than 29,000 students currently enrolled in university programmes. This data was released in a new infographic by KHDA titled, ‘Growth, strength and possibility in Dubai’s private education sector.’

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of KHDA said:

“Dubai continues to strengthen its position as a leading international study destination. The growth and diversity in programme choices offered by international universities in the emirate, and the sustained growth in international student enrolment highlights Dubai’s ability to consistently deliver high-quality education and builds on our commitment to create better education choices that offer families and investors new possibilities.”

More international students choosing Dubai for university

The surge in student numbers at international higher education institutions is largely driven by an increase in international students travelling to Dubai for better higher education choices. Dubai is currently home to 34 international higher education institutions that provide more than 600 programmes, with one in four students coming from outside the UAE (28%).

Business, Information Technology, and Engineering remain the top three programme choices for students. IT saw the biggest increase in student enrolments at international universities in Dubai in the last five years. Enrolment in IT saw a 5.8% increase compared with the 2017/ 2018 academic year, followed by Law and Humanities (1.53%). Health medicine also witnessed a 1.51% increase in the number of enrolments during the same period.

This is part of a series of infographics on Dubai’s private education sector for the 2021/2022 academic year. Additional infographics will offer key data on each phase of Dubai’s private education sector, including schools and early childhood centres, to give investors, operators, educators, and parents insights into each sector.

For the international higher education institutions infographic, see the KHDA website.


Key Figures

Dubai’s international higher education institutions sector:

  • 34 universities and higher education institutions

  • 29,168 students

609 programmes

  • 3.6% increase in higher education student enrolment

  • 28% of higher education students in Dubai are international students coming to the city for the purpose of study.

Photograph: Birmingham University Dubai copyright Hopkins Architects

Read an inspiring Guide to applying to University from Dubai here.

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About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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