Dubai: New hub for top global universities

Dubai Marina

A woman walks by the waterline at the Dubai Marina in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai city authorities offer attractive long-term visa for outstanding international students.  

Photo credit: AFP

Dubai is known for modern architecture, ports and beaches. The city has, over the years been celebrated for its unique brand as a popular luxury travel and shopping destination.

The “City of Gold”, is the most populous emirate in United Arabs Emirates (UAE).

Aside from its reputation and luxurious appeal, the city in the Persian Gulf is also emerging as a higher education hub for top universities. And Kenyans have taken note.

Dubai, the city that never stops moving, is proving to be the destination for international students.

Offering a diverse selection of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, Dubai is fast developing into an epicentre of international universities due to its affordability and hustle-free visa regulations.

The city plays host to an estimated 65 colleges and universities, out of which 27 are campuses of universities and higher education institutions of repute. Twenty other universities offer a variety of international degree courses.

With its increasing popularity, it is estimated that more than 27,500 international students are enrolled in institutions of higher learning in Dubai.

Some of the most prestigious universities in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Russia, China, Germany and many other countries have set up campuses in Dubai.

Heriot-Watt (UK) was the first overseas university to set up a campus in Dubai International Academic City.

Since then, others have followed suit, including Boston University Dental School, the University of South Wales, Michigan State University, Murdoch University International Study Centre and Mahatma Gandhi University.

Higher Education

Others are Manchester University Business School, the Canadian University of Dubai, the American University, British University in Dubai and American College of Dubai.

Whereas in the past, organisations dealing with higher education concentrated on connecting students in Kenya to universities in the US, Europe, Canada and Australia, many have added Dubai to their catalogue as the popularity of the city soars.

Junek International Ltd is one such agency.

“Dubai is a growing education hub with a rise in multi-cultural and foreign population seeing top league universities setting base there. It will be a destination of choice for international education in five to 10 years,” says Josephine Chepkoech, the General Manager of Junek International.

She adds that being a business hub, top companies based in the city fuel the need for education.

“Universities have tapped on the huge population frequenting the city for business to provide an avenue one can study,” says Rachel Wangeci, the recruitment officer at Junek International.

“For a much less comparable living cost, you get state-of-art infrastructure, technology and a rich cultural experience.”

But what makes the second wealthiest emirate in the UAE tick?

Dubai offers access to affordable and quality education compared to Western countries.

A one-way flight ticket to Dubai can be as low as Sh37,000.

The average annual tuition fees for an undergraduate programme in the city is Sh1.6 million while a postgraduate course will cost Sh2.1 million. Some are as low as Sh500,000 a year.

In some universities, fee is charged on students taking 12 to 16 credit hours, but most charge on the basis of the number of credit hours of the learner.

Industry insights

Another advantage of opting for Dubai is that students may transfer to the parent universities if they so wish.

“The quality of education in Dubai is high as a student can get academic and work experience simultaneously. With access to futuristic technology, the learning is top-notch,” Ms Chepkoech says.

Also setting it apart from the rest of the world is the fact that Dubai is a hustle-free visa destination.

City authorities offer attractive long-term visas for outstanding students.

While a UAE student visa is valid for a year and renewable, outstanding learners can apply and get a long-term one of five years.

“Accessibility is another attraction as it is easy to travel to Dubai not only for a student but even for any other people like parents, relatives or even friends,” Ms Chepkoech says.

Another reason for the popularity of Dubai University and college campuses is that courses are tailored to include industry insights into lessons with practical live working environments mirroring what one would expect in the industry.

“This makes it easy for universities to engage companies for internship so that students get hands-on experience as well as tap into a rich alumni network,” Ms Wangeci says.

The other highlight is the hands-on learning approach offered by the universities boasting remarkable facilities, and opportunities to network with industry experts.

Dubai has become a home to thriving sectors such as e-Commerce, digital marketing, business development, engineering and technology and transport logistics.

Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City are known for housing top ICT companies and media organisations like Microsoft, Oracle Corporation, IBM, HP, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cable News Network and Sky News.

The city also offers a diverse multi-cultural environment as it is a meeting point for people from all over the world.

“If you are looking to have the true study-abroad cultural experience, that is the place to be because you get to experience all cultures within a single city as the universities are in one area,” Wangeci says.


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