The UAE offers students the opportunity to learn from world-renowned faculties, experience Arabian culture, and network with others from all over the globe

The UAE is a popular study destination, thanks to cosmopolitan cities, top-class universities and modern facilities. English is the primary language at most UAE universities, making it a popular study destination for international students.

With low levels of crime, the UAE is considered a safe place to live, but to avoid falling foul of the law, it is important to respect the country's Islamic culture and local customs. For example, public displays of affection, fighting, public drunkenness, and swearing are not tolerated. Dress codes are more relaxed in expat or tourist areas, but it is still best to dress modestly when going out socially.

Popular free-time activities include desert safaris, shopping, camel rides, visiting attractions such as the Burj Khalifa or Palm Islands, or taking up sports such as parachuting, mountaineering, dune bashing, or scuba diving.

Before committing to study in the UAE, make sure you check the latest foreign travel advice at GOV.UK.

UAE universities

The UAE's rapid expansion of higher education institutions, with new universities opening regularly, demonstrates its ambition to become a global education hub.

For a list of accredited universities see Arabian Campus - Universities.

The UAE is home to four of the global top 500 universities, according to the QS World University Rankings 2024. These universities are:

  • Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (230th)
  • UAE University (290th)
  • American University of Sharjah (364th)
  • University of Sharjah (465th).

The academic year runs from September to June with a winter break in December and a spring break.


Heriot-Watt University Dubai

Study at one of the most successful foreign universities in the UAE. Postgraduate courses available at the Dubai campus include construction project management, petroleum engineering, energy and IT, plus its world-renowned MBA.


Middlesex University Dubai

Study at a global university and benefit from living in a rapidly developing modern city in the heart of the Middle East while gaining access to a variety of UK undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes.


Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence

MBZUAI is a unique new institution focused on graduate programmes and research in artificial intelligence. You'll receive outstanding financial support and teaching from leading academics.

Degree courses in the UAE

Bachelors programs at UAE universities are available in a range of subjects and can be studied full time or part time. Full-time programs typically take three to four years to complete.

Admission requirements vary by university, but international students typically need a high school diploma or equivalent. Most universities teach in English, so international students must also demonstrate their English proficiency through an IELTS or TOEFL test. Some universities may also require fluency in Arabic.

Masters degrees

Most Masters programs in the UAE are structured similarly to those in in the UK, offering both MAs and MScs. Applicants must have a Bachelors degree. Full-time programs typically last one to two years, but some programs offer part-time, online, or distance learning options that can take up to five years to complete.

Popular Masters degree subjects in the UAE include business administration, architecture, humanities, science, and engineering. As in the UK, most Masters programs in the UAE require a thesis. The main language of instruction is English, but some institutions may require proof of Arabic proficiency.

Other postgraduate qualifications include the Master of Business Administration (MBA), Executive MBA and PhD.


Like Masters qualifications, PhDs in the UAE follow a similar structure to those in the UK. Students are required to conduct independent research and submit a thesis.

Doctoral programmes typically last three to four years, depending on your field of study. You must have a Masters degree to apply for these research-based programmes. PhDs are commonly taken in biotechnology, economics, engineering, science, and technology.

Student exchanges

The UAE is one of the world's most innovative locations, so it's hardly surprising that several UK universities have developed campusesthere.

You may be eligible for postgraduate exchange programmes with your university, so check with your tutor or institution's international office. The UAE institution you are interested in  may also be able to help.

A growing number of international institutions also have universities or campuses in the UAE, including those from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA. The University of Middlesex has a campus in Dubai, which provides a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as well as several short professional courses. Other institutions include:

  • Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus
  • Canadian University Dubai
  • University of Birmingham Dubai.

Course fees

While UAE citizens can study postgraduate courses for free at public universities, international students must pay tuition fees. Universities in the UAE set their own fees, so costs vary depending on the course, level of study, and location.

Tuition fees for postgraduate courses are often expensive, but the cost of programs varies significantly, ranging from AED 37,500 (£8,381) to AED 75,000 (£16,763) in Dubai, the UAE's most expensive city.

All courses are assessed in semester credit hours. There are also additional costs to consider, such as application fees, accommodation, study materials, food, and travel.

Funding to study in the UAE

While tuition fees may be high, there are funding options available. The United Arab Emirates government does not currently offer scholarship schemes for international postgraduate students as government scholarships are typically reserved for UAE nationals only. However, some institutions offer postgraduate study scholarships to international students. You may also be eligible for funding from a UK organisation, depending on your field of study.

Student visas

To obtain a student residence visa, you must be sponsored by a resident of the UAE. If you don't have any relatives in the country, your university will likely sponsor you, but check with your institution's international office to confirm.

You must apply for the visa online, but keep in mind that sponsorship does not guarantee acceptance. Student visas are usually granted for one year, but they are renewable for the duration of your program. The application fee is AED 850 plus VAT (£190).

You'll need to provide:

  • passport with at least six months validity and two blank visa pages
  • 12 passport-sized photographs
  • three passport copies and an entry visa to the UAE upon arrival
  • evidence of acceptance to a UAE higher education institution
  • bank statements outlining evidence of funds
  • tenancy agreement (or a letter from your university if staying in halls)
  • copy of tuition fee receipt for the current study year of the programme
  • copy of visa fee receipt for the current study year of the programme
  • postgraduate students will also need proof of a recognised undergraduate degree.

Upon arrival in the country, you'll need to undergo a medical examination, which will test for HIV, hepatitis B and C, tuberculosis, leprosy, and syphilis. If you test positive for any of these diseases, except syphilis, you'll be deported.

It's important to check medical requirements in your state, as regulations may differ. For example, health insurance is compulsory for all students in Dubai. For more information about costs, visit the University of Dubai - Visas and health insurance.

Outstanding students may be granted a five-year visa. To be granted this visa:

  • secondary school students must graduate with a grade of at least 95%
  • university students must graduate with a distinctive GPA of at least 3.75 from universities within or outside the country.

How to apply

Universities set their own application requirements. Applications for postgraduate study are usually completed online and submitted directly to your university of interest. All applications should be made by May/June prior to course start dates.

Universities ask for:

  • a completed application form
  • an application fee
  • your passport
  • certificates of educational achievement
  • references
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) certificate (if applicable).

For more information on entry criteria, contact your chosen university's international student office.

Language requirements

If you are taking an English-taught course but would like to learn a second language, many places offer Arabic lessons upon arrival. Learning the national language can also help you socialise and settle into your new home.

All three public universities require proficiency in both Arabic and English, while most private institutions teach their programs in English. If you are not a native speaker of either language, you will need to provide proficiency test scores before being admitted to a course.

Language requirements vary, so be sure to check with your institution.

Comparison to UK qualifications

UAE higher education programs follow a similar pattern to those in the UK, so qualifications earned in the UAE should be recognised by UK employers. However, it is always best to check before applying for a course or job.

You can contact your UAE institution's admissions or international office to confirm that your qualification will be recognised or has an equivalent in the UK.

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