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Private Education Prospers in Dubai, Report Says

Private higher education in Dubai has grown by 7.5 percent in the current academic year to reach 26,000 university students, a recent governmental report revealed.

Dubai, perhaps the best known of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, has attracted skilled professionals from around the world, many of whom have families who need education. Dubai’s population is about 2.5 million, but only 168,029 are Emirati nationals, according to a Dubai statistics center.

The high number of expats drives a high demand for seats at educational institutions at both school and university levels, especially because public institutions are open only to citizens, a difficult status for outsiders to obtain.

Many students also go to Dubai without their families just to study there. According to the report, 33 percent of students traveled from abroad to study in Dubai, and 67 percent were residents of the UAE. Students from abroad came mainly from India, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria and Jordan, in that order.

The city is now home to 26 international branch campuses from 11 countries and includes universities in free zones such as Dubai Academic city and Dubai Knowledge Village, according to a report by The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) called “The Story Unfolds… Private Education in Dubai 2015/16”. British higher education institutions have the greatest presence, with eight campuses, followed by India and Australia with four each.

The emirate’s economy was first built on revenues from the oil industry, but education has become a new playground for investors, particularly after the drop in oil prices.

“The education sector gives investors safe returns on their investment, as it is one of the sectors which has continued to grow even during economic slowdowns,” said Abdullah Al Karam, director-general of KHDA during an event held this week at the authority’s headquarters to mark the release of the report.

The report found that 58 percent of students are enrolled in bachelor’s programs, 34 percent in master’s programs, and only one percent are pursuing doctorates. The five top disciplines are business, engineering, media and design, information technology and architecture and construction.

The report also highlights the growth in the number of private schools, which reached 173 during the 2015-16 academic year and welcomed 265,299 students from 183 nationalities. Out of the 173 private schools in Dubai, 65 offer the British curriculum, 32 offer the Indian curriculum and 31 offer the U.S. curriculum. The U.K. curriculum has witnessed an impressive 40 percent growth in student enrollment since 2011-12.

Growth in the number of institutions has also resulted in revenue growth from tuition. Revenue from private schools reached 6.1 billion dirhams ($1.7 million) during the 2015-2016 academic year, the report revealed. That is a strong reversal from the previous year, when revenue was 5.38 billion dirhams ($1.46 million). The report found that 1.7 percent of Dubai’s GDP is generated by private school revenues. The report also said that 60.7 percent of students pay less than 20,000 dirhams ($5,400) in tuition per year. But the report did not say what the highest rate is for the fees.

Next year, more new private schools will open in Dubai. “We are expecting 15 to 20 schools to open next year. This is the highest number of schools opening in one year that we have ever witnessed,” said Al Karam. “Having new schools enter the market also prompts schools to compete to offer the best services and fees to parents and students.”

To read the full report, click here.

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