Dubai Emerges As The New Higher Education Hub

On the backdrop of solid sustained economic growth, Dubai’s higher education sector continues to evolve and attract foreign universities to UAE. Strong demand for higher education has emerged from the local and as well as the regional students. The students prefer studying in Dubai as the Emirate provides cultural diversity, world-class infrastructure and dynamic employment opportunities. Most importantly, Dubai aims to attract more inbound students through easing visa regulations and procedures, making it one of the world’s most desired destinations.

Growing Population Triggers Higher Education Demand


 Dubai Population Demographics (2016 – 2020)


The population of Dubai reached 2.45 million in 2016 registering a CAGR of 6.7 per cent. It is further expected to increase to 3.5 million by 2020 as a result of a series of economic initiatives taken by the government. The demand for higher education in Dubai will increase, subsequently.

Dubai Macroeconomic Highlights 

  • Dubai GDP Growth Rate – 4-4.5%
  • Dubai GDP Worth – USD 76+ Billion  (3 Qtr – 2015)
  • Dubai GDP Worth – USD 100 Billion (2015 – Est.)
  • Age Density – 60% Population (5 to 35 Years)

Dubai – The New Education Hub

In the recent past, the Dubai government has given top priority to the education sector by setting up an independent education body – Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) and establishing education hubs (Academic City & Knowledge Village) and free zones across the Emirate to facilitate expansion of foreign universities. Dubai government also announced a budget of AED 46 M (USD 12.5 M) for 2016 focusing on social development, education, health and infrastructure.

Dubai – Higher Education Key Performance Data

As of now, there are 26 branch campuses of international universities in Dubai, which represents the highest concentration of educational institutes in the world, making Dubai one of the most attractive markets for higher education. Since 2007 the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) has attracted 23 Academic institutions and 24,000 students from more than 145 different nationalities. Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV) is home to 15 International Branch Campuses and 150 training institutions and learning centers.

Enrollments and Educational Tourism – Dubai

Dubai’s higher education sector is among the fastest growing in the world with a CAGR of 15 per cent. In 2015, from the 26,125 students that were enrolled in Dubai’s higher educational institutes, 33 per cent were international students mostly enrolled in bachelors and master’s degree program.


Student Enrollments – Dubai Higher Education

Top Enrollments – Dubai’s Higher Education

Investment Opportunities in Higher Education Sector

Dubai is expected to record full-year GDP growth of around 4-4.5% and Expo 2020 is yet another important component of any strategy to give Dubai a more prominent place in the business world. EXPO 2020 will give a significant hike in strengthening sectors like tourismretailhealthcare, financial services and education. Growing younger population and huge demand for quality higher education facilities will open up enormous opportunities for educational Investors.

K-12 One of the most promising Investment Sector

Similar to Dubai’s higher education sector, K-12 sector could be considered for worthy for future investments as Dubai and UAE based primary, preparatory and secondary schools are fast adapting innovation and the use of modern technological tools into the teaching/learning process to enhance the overall learning environment. K-12 education system is playing a critical role in the success of the school due to high demand for innovative and creative learning methods in Dubai and UAE.

Dubai government is welcoming Foreign Direct Investments through providing faster and easier business set up regulations and free zone facilities. Following the BOO (build, own, operate) model for educational institutes, investors see plenty of opportunity to become involved in Dubai’s higher education sector.

Author: RKonnect
The author is the Managing Director of Research Konnection, a Dubai based market research and consulting firm that helps local and international companies to identify emerging business opportunities and successfully expand in the Gulf region. The author can be reached at
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