GETEX 2014 Confirms Strong Growth Of Education Sector In UAE

Gulf Education and Training Exhibition (GETEX) 2014 has been successfully concluded on 11th of April. The three day event was exhibited by numerous universities, colleges, institutes and vocational training centers from UAE and around the world and it was visited by thousands of students and academicians.

The popularity of GETEX is a reflection of rising demand of the education sector in UAE. Considering the rising demand of the sector, amidst economic growth and influx of more and more expatraites our Team has compiled a report which intends to capture the current insights on the burgeoning higher education sector in UAE apart from evaluating possible challenges and opportunities the sector faces.

Great nations and societies are built on great education. Taking a cue from this, UAE is prioritizing the sector and seeking huge investments towards developing state of the art schools, higher education institutes, universities and vocational training centers. To demonstrate its commitment towards education, UAE has allocated a fund of AED 9.8 billion (USD 2.67 billion) for school and higher education in budget 2014-2016.

One of the fundamental pillars of the present day higher education sector in UAE can be attributed to long term objective of economic transformation into knowledge based economy. Through our earlier reports we have demonstrated the ongoing trend of economic diversification, which has been spearheaded by Dubai and is religiously followed by other emirates in the UAE. After successfully diversifying into alternate sectors such as real estate, retail and tourism; the next agenda of diversification in UAE is towards knowledge based economy which can nurture cutting edge technologies, innovations and business practices.

Higher Education

As a part of the intended objective, Dubai and other emirates in UAE are seeking huge investments towards developing universities, institutions and research centers. One of the initial initiatives in this regard has been Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV), established in 2003 as a free zone for foreign universities and institutions. However, due to space limitation in DKV and increasing growth in education sector, Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) was established in 2007 to facilitate more local and international universities with state of the art modern facilities. At present, DIAC caters to over 20,000 students from 125 nationalities offering around 400 education programs. Quite staggeringly, DIAC has 21 International Branch Campuses of various universities, which is the largest number in any one location in the world.

UAE’s higher education landscape can be broadly classified into four types of education institutes; Local, Federal, Foreign and Vocational institutes which offers range of courses such as technology, law, business, humanities, media and design etc.

The first international university in UAE was American University, which was opened in 1995. Soon after numerous other universities namely Wollongong, Middlesex, Herriot Watt, Murdoch, INSEAD and Tuft etc. followed. International universities is also helping to UAE emerge as a cost effective alternative to European and American universities, especially for students from South Asian countries such as Pakistan and India. Likewise, it has numerous local universities, owned by individual enterprises from UAE such as Al Ghurair University owned by the Ghurair Group. Similarly, there are federal run universities, which are generally intended for Emiratis and vocational training institutes which provides students with career and technical education. However, the first two categories consist of the larger enrolment.

Higher Education and Long Term Objectives

The present socio-economic dimension in UAE, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi can offer numerous opportunities for education sector to expand and flourish. Last year Dubai won the bid for conducting World Exposition 2020, which is expected to generate 277,000 direct jobs. Such events with huge demand potential, calls upon universities to extend their academic and training portfolios to train and equip students to fill the gap.

Aligned with the preparation for World Exposition, a large volume of jobs are expected to be generated in key sectors such as; tourism and aviation (the university status granted to emirates aviation college in 2010 is an indication of how significant aviation sector is for UAE) as the event is expected to be visited by over 25 million guests and construction industry, pertaining to the fact that the event will be associated with massive investment of AED 25 billion (USD 6.8 billion). Other fertile sectors appear to be transportation, retail, banking and finance etc. which should generate ample opportunities.

On similar lines Abu Dhabi is also implementing long term strategic plan called Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 which is aimed at structured diversification of the emirate’s economy into a range of key sectors with education being one of them. Not only the plan seeks massive investment for education sector to develop world class universities, training institutions, research and innovation centers but should also ample generate vacancies to absorb pass outs in multitude sectors.

Other emirates such as Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Kamiah are also taking proactive steps towards developing and enhancing their higher education sector. Besides, the key sectors mentioned above, another sector which can unearth large opportunities in the gulf country could be sustainable practices. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are undertaking ambitious multi-billion dollar initiatives such as Smart City Plan and Masdar City Plan to develop sustainable and environmental friendly practices, which should consequently stimulate employment opportunities in greener technologies and environmental science.

Challenges and Opportunities

In spite of being one of the key sectors, higher education in UAE is not insulated from challenges. Not every international educational institute opened in UAE did very well. Some were closed down such as the University of Waterloo as a result of low enrolment levels. Other challenges involve, mismatch between academic curriculum and industry practices, lack of good internship opportunities for students and dearth of academic and private partnership.

However, some of these underlying challenges also offer fertile opportunities to be explored. For instance, our individual understanding suggests that in numerous universities and institutions in UAE, there is a vast amount of academic research which could be tapped to determine useful and valuable insights. Similarly, more collaborative research can be administered between academic institutions and industry in the areas pertaining to science and technology. This is high time when both the academic and corporate world should further come close.

Research Konnection FZE

Research Konnection FZE is a market research and business consulting agency in UAE with a focus on capturing winning insights and offering practical consultation and assistance to clients, which can help them Konnect with bigger opportunities in UAE.

Apart from sectors such as real estate, tourism and retail, we have been very actively involved in the education sector and worked in capacity of feasibility and market research for education and training institutions, placement agencies and student exchange program management companies to help them establish and grow in UAE market.

If you are one of them and need some assistance, feel free to drop us a mail at

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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