2023 predictions for UAE universities

“The higher education landscape in the UAE is on an exciting and dynamic journey and is now a destination of choice for many students”

The UAE has 11 universities featured in the rankings for the top 1,000.  It’s an impressive feat for a country that founded its first university, the United Arab Emirates University, in 1976, but how have they achieved this?

When you ask anyone working in higher education what 2023 looks like, the response is positive. Post-pandemic, the higher education landscape is filled with visions of a digital age and driving research to change the world.

This stems from what has been happening on college and university campuses for the last two years; fuelled by the pandemic, worldwide digital transformation, new learning formats and exploitation of the latest innovative technologies that can take educators and learners to another level beyond the zoom’ pandemic days. The UAE is no different.

The release of the 2023 University rankings by Times Higher Education featured 11 UAE universities in the top 1,000. In the QS rankings, 10 universities from the Emirates ranked in the top 50 across the Arab region, with three UAE universities placed in the top 10, Khalifa University (fifth), United Arab Emirates University (joint seventh) and the University of Sharjah (ninth).

The higher education landscape in the UAE is on an exciting and dynamic journey and is now a destination of choice for many students in the UAE and from further afield. This is reflected in how strongly the UAE performs in the international outlook metrics, which identifies the proportion of international students, international staff, and international co-authorship of academic papers.

Students are drawn to study in the UAE, not only by the climate, but by a number of other key factors.

This includes the high quality of education, the wide range of fields of study on offer and particularly attractive is the wide use of English throughout the UAE.  In addition, the cost of studying for a degree in the UAE can be competitive with other destinations such as the UK or Europe. The recent introduction of a five-year visa for outstanding international students has proved another added bonus. 

Similarly, to the school system in the UAE, there is a wide range of choices featuring homegrown universities such as the United Arab Emirates University, the American University of Sharjah, and the American University of Dubai.

Furthermore, the UAE is a top host country for international branch campuses, including The University of Manchester, Heriot-Watt University, the Sorbonne, and New York University, all delivering tried and tested undergraduate degrees and postgraduate programs to students in the UAE.

Firstly for 2023, I feel that the degree programs on offer will continue to reflect the needs and growth agenda of the country, with a core focus on business-related degrees.

However, a wider provision will increasingly be offered, with degree programs including AI and Computer Science, Biomedical sciences, Engineering and Psychology.  All of these courses are now being offered by one of the top Russell Group universities from the UK, at the new Birmingham University campus in DIAC.

Middlesex University, a long-term provider in the UAE HE landscape, has recently expanded its offer to include degrees in Health and Education, Art, and Design, as well as Media and Law.

Abu Dhabi has long been a champion of promoting prestigious universities from overseas to open in the capital. A branch campus of New York University offers the academic flexibility of a traditional Liberal Arts program, whilst the Sorbonne follows the French system and offers degrees as varied as Applied Foreign Languages, Data Science and Geography and Planning.

Secondly, one of the key metrics in the global university rankings is academic reputation, which relates to the research work being undertaken and published by the academic faculty at the universities.

The UAE recognises that research is the bedrock that underpins a productive and competitive knowledge-based economy and that universities are the hubs from where much of this knowledge is generated. It is interesting to note that currently, there are 623 research projects underway at UAEU, looking into areas such as renewable energy, transportation, water resources, space, and technology.

My final prediction for 2023 is that as the UAE’s reputation for research grows, so will the ability to attract top university faculty, which will help to drive their academic reputations, meaning we can expect to see more of the UAE’s universities appear in the global rankings, which will, in turn, reinforce the UAE’s reputation as a top study destination.

Do you have any thoughts about what is coming this year? Then, add your own prediction for 2023 in the comments below. 

About the author: Fiona McKenzie is head of Education at Carfax EducationFiona leads a team that expertly helps hundreds of students get into the top 50 UK and US universities.  Fiona works with a leading team of consultants who expertly navigate the education landscape, guiding families through the complexities and demystifying the process to help every child exceed their expectations and achieve their ambitions. With over 30 years of experience in independent education as a teacher, governor and consultant, Fiona has helped hundreds of families access the very best education for their children, from nursery through to university, offering candid, impartial advice to ensure long-term success.  

 Fiona loves education, starting with her education at Rugby School and then at St Andrew’s University.  Fiona has been a featured speaker at dozens of education conferences across Europe and the Middle East, including GESS and The Independent Schools Show.