What makes the Middle East attractive to international students?

“The university culture in the Middle East is vastly different from that of the western world…but students are eager to experience new cultures”

When thinking of the Middle East, ‘Education’ may not be the first thing you think of, writes Fazreen Razeek of Middle East education guide Edarabia. However, the last decade has seen a major shift, with the building of world-class universities, and in attracting international students from all over the world.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates have continuously led the development of private schools in the region, with enrolment growth at 5% in Abu Dhabi and 4% in Dubai. Both cities account for 60% of the private K-12 market with ongoing year over year growth.

The Middle East is considered to be one of the fastest-growing regions for international education; the diverse cultures in each country expose students to experiences they would not be able to encounter anywhere else.

International Students are drawn to the vast number of accredited universities that are top-ranking around the world. Using the example of the American University of Sharjah in the UAE, the university receives over 5,000 students each term.

The diversity of students at AUS is remarkable; just this factor alone makes it a top choice for students looking to interact with other cultures and learn more outside the classroom. The UAE itself has always put a strong emphasis on Education. With the literacy rate close to 95%, the country ensures that students are ready to compete in the global marketplace.

Universities in the Middle East

It was only until the middle of the 20th century that the Middle East was home to a small number of 10 universities. There has been incredible growth since then, with many countries making education a priority in the lives of students. More recently, King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was crowned the best university in the Arab world. 

The university culture in the Middle East is vastly different from that of the Western world, understandably. But today, students are eager to experience new cultures and traditions; eager to break free and experience the world outside of their own bubble.

“These countries have more to offer, rather than just what’s offered at their top universities”

The universities in the Middle East are young. They’re adapting, technology-driven and don’t stick to conventions. Students are compelled to study in countries like the UAE, Egypt, Oman, and Lebanon because of the top-ranking universities that provide high education standards, as well as an atmosphere where students can thrive intellectually and socially. 

Looking at NYU Abu Dhabi, it’s clear that they have left their mark in education in the Middle East. They provide top-tier courses and the same standard of education as their American counterpart.

Since its opening in 2010, NYUAD ranks #1 in the UAE for publications in the worlds top science journals and boasts over 80 global PhD students in the 2019-2020 academic year itself. Its legacy and achievements alone attract thousands of students per year.

Moving away from the Gulf giants, according to UNESCO statistics, Egypt ranks as one of the top 20 most attractive countries for international students as well.

The country’s “premier” public university, Cairo University, is the second oldest institution of higher education and counts three Nobel laureates among its graduates. CU uses interactive learning and information technology in order to prepare their students for the rapidly-changing workforce, making it a solid choice for students who want to study in the country. 

The Middle East as a Hub for Culture & Education

These countries have more to offer, rather than just what’s offered at their top universities. Most do offer lavish lifestyles, but the history of these countries is so incredibly extensive, that even museum visits would not be able to do them justice. 

The Middle East is still emerging as a key player in the education sector. However, most are making their way to the top quickly. They’re being recognized for their strength in science and economics, making them a force of nature that should not be underestimated.

About the author: Fazreen Razeek is the digital account manager of Edarabia, and has served the digital industry for almost 10 years. He collaborates and works alongside agencies, event organizers, and suppliers to develop and execute their marketing strategies.