The United Arab Emirates attracts students from all over the world with its high quality universities, diverse yet distinct culture, and eye-popping architecture. From riding dune buggies in the desert, to skiing indoors, to testing your fear of heights (indoor skydiving, perhaps, or visiting the world’s tallest building?), the bucket list of once-in-a-lifetime activities is long. So stick around awhile and earn your degree at universities in the UAE for international students. In addition to an adrenaline fix, you’ll gain an intimate understanding of the UAE’s many cultures and be ready to launch or elevate your career with your hard-earned diploma in hand.
Each of the UAE’s seven unique emirates deserves exploration with their varying cultures, customs, and landscapes. Like oases in the desert, the three largest emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah – feature museums, restaurants, and shopping malls to delight the senses (if not the pocketbook).
The Burj Khalifa, the official tallest building in the world, towers over the dazzling city of Dubai. Take a peek inside a seven star hotel like the Burj Al Arab, or view the artificial Palm Islands (while also contemplating their environmental impact). After you’ve gawked a while, close your wide-open mouth, settle into your studies, and begin to experience a side of Dubai that locals and long-term expats enjoy. Walk through Old Dubai, along Dubai Creek, and visit Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai’s oldest building. Here, you can attend the American University in the Emirates among other prestigious universities in the UAE.
Although Dubai is the best place to earn your degree, travel throughout the country to see it all. More than just the faraway place Garfield always tries to send Nermal, Abu Dhabi is the largest Emirate, capital city, and home to a large percentage of Emiratis. It features some 2,000 parks and gardens (including public beaches), green tree-lined streets, and the opulent Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Abu Dhabi’s multicultural flair makes it standout, and can be experienced through the diverse cuisine, religious buildings, and cultural institutions. There many universities in Abu Dhabi to choose from.
To experience a more traditional Arab city, head to Sharjah, the third-largest Emirate. Overlooking the Persian Gulf, Sharjah celebrates the heritage of the area. In the Heritage District, art galleries, a souk, and the Heritage Museum (where you can see a traditional house), give insight into the region’s Arab and Islamic culture. As a student, University City is worth a visit, too. This education district houses numerous universities set on lovely grounds and is full of youthful, contagious energy.
Other degree-seeking students consider popular locations like the United Arab Emirates University. Dubai masters’ programs are world-renowned (with partial thanks to the American university in Dubai). Like the types of dates and figs, there is a wide-selection of universities in the UAE for international students to consider!
Degree Programs in the UAE
The beauty of getting your undergraduate, masters, or PhD in the United Arab Emirates is that you can study virtually anything you wish; although, there are certainly some fields that stand out. Whatever you choose to study, you’re sure to learn about it from a completely unique perspective, and stretch your mind to new limits.
Subjects well-worth packing your bags to study in the UAE include business and engineering. Sure, you could study these at home or elsewhere, but the opportunity to learn business through a Middle Eastern lense is invaluable, especially if you plan to do business in the region. And, in a place that is booming in construction, telecommunications, and technology, not to mention the strong oil and manufacturing sectors, studying engineering or business here will prepare you to be at the cutting edge of these industries.
The most common type of degree to earn in the UAE is the all-important undergraduate degree. Typically a four-year degree, the undergraduate degree serves as a basic entry-point to many fields nowadays. No matter your ambitions, having the degree will open doors. And by immersing yourself in another culture while you’re doing it, you automatically earn yourself major points when it comes to showing (and learning) your ability to adapt, communicate across cultures, and take initiative. Plus, it will be an instant conversation starter for the rest of your life.
If you’ve already earned an undergraduate degree, don’t fret. Earning a graduate certificate can be a great way to enhance your skills without a huge investment of time and money. A certificate in Middle Eastern Studies, for example, can help give your career direction, provide expertise in working in the region, or could pair with an undergraduate degree in another field to set you apart in the job market.
Costs & Affordability
Affordability is a low-point in the conversation on why to earn your degree in the UAE Unfortunately, the cost of living is relatively high, so you need to budget carefully. There is also a surprisingly huge range of possibility when it comes to how much you can spend on a daily basis. Heading out to a high-end restaurant, splurging on the meal, and taking a taxi to and fro could run up upwards of 2,000 AED, or roughly $500 USD. On the other hand, you can grab a delicious meal of Indian food at a neighborhood spot in the 45 AED range ($12 USD).
On that note, eating out rather than shopping and cooking for yourself is quick to add up. Buying locally and regionally produced veggies and meats will save you big bucks at the supermarket. You can get by on around 250 AED ($70 USD) per week when you stick to a budget at the grocery store or market.
The glitz and glam of the Emirati lifestyle can be tempting. With shopping malls as a great attraction, shopaholics may have to step away from the dressing room. But, with budgeting and a bit of willpower, you can enjoy your time in the UAE without draining the bank account. This might mean you’ll be sitting on the bus as a Porsche or Ferrari zooms by, but hey, at least many of the bus stops are air-conditioned. And, the beach is always free.
Accommodation & Visas
Many universities in the UAE do offer housing, especially for undergraduates, and it can be much more affordable than staying in an apartment. Check this option first if you are concerned about cost (i.e. everyone). On average, housing costs between $2,000 and $5,000 USD for the semester for university housing, depending on if you share a room and, of course, the university.
If you opt out of university housing or your school doesn’t offer it, living in an apartment is your next best option, given the length of time you’ll be in country. Again, housing costs vary dramatically depending on the type, size, style, and location of the apartment you choose. A one bedroom apartment runs anywhere from $1000 to $2000 USD per month (sometimes more). Do be aware that rent must be often paid upfront, anywhere from three to twelve months at a time.
To study in the UAE, you’ll need a Student Entry Permit and Student Residence Visa. Once you’ve officially been accepted to your school, you can apply for the permit, which takes up to 20 days to process. Once you arrive in the UAE you’ll apply for the visa, which takes another couple of weeks. Typically, your university will assist you with this process; however, they may charge an additional fee to do so. Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for any up-to-date info on student visas for the UAE.
Benefits & Challenges
Most likely, one of your main goals in earning a degree abroad is to, well, earn the degree, right? The good news about choosing the UAE to earn your degree is that you can study almost anything (in high quality educational facilities) to boost your career. The majority of degrees earned in the UAE are recognized around the world, and many even meet rigorous United States accreditation standards, meaning your degree will maintain its value wherever you go.
Some cultural practices and laws may be very different than what you are used to. If you date in the UAE, know that only married couples can hold hands in public. Laws regarding alcohol and dress code, for example, apply, so it’s important to understand and respect the cultural practices and norms. Approach new-to-you customs with an open, yet discerning mind, and be sure to observe locals to see how things are done. It may take an adjustment period, but before you know it, new ways of doing things will become second nature.
The longer you live in a place, the more you will get to know what makes it tick. Earning a degree in the UAE means you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in its unique culture for an extended period of time, something you can’t get by staying at home.