Higher Education

UAE StudentsThe United Arab Emirates (UAE) is home to a wide range of universities, both public and private. The UAE has established an excellent and diversified system of higher education in a very short period of time.

The Ministry of Education  established the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) to conduct a program of licensure of institutions of higher education and accreditation of each of their academic programs.

The mission of CAA is to promote educational excellence across diverse institutions of higher learning in the UAE. Through licensure of colleges and universities, and accreditation of individual programs, the Commission strives to assure high quality education, consistent with international standards. The ten standards of excellence and the criteria that all institutions must meet for licensure and program accreditation provide measures of quality and also reflect a consensus within the international higher education community about the essential characteristics of institutions that achieve a level of excellence and continuously improve. As a result, students, graduates, their families, and the UAE public can be confident that licensed institutions and accredited programs will provide the high quality of higher education that they expect and deserve.

To find out more about licensed institutions of higher education in the UAE, please refer to the Commission for Academic Accreditation.

UAE higher education institutions can be divided into three categories: Public, private, and Global Partnerships.

Public Institutions

UAE citizens can attend government institutions free of charge, and the UAE has one of the highest application participation rates in the world. Ninety-five percent of all girls and 80 percent of boys enrolled in the final year of secondary school apply for admission to a higher education institution. Public institutions include:

  • UAE University (UAEU), where enrollment has increased from 502 in its founding year (1977) to nearly 14,740 in 2006. Women represent a majority of the student body. UAE University awards 70 undergraduate degrees as well as some graduate degrees. Many of its programs are internationally accredited.
  • Zayed University (ZU), established in 1998 as an all-women’s institution, and later expanded to include men. The primary language of instruction is English. Today, ZU has two modern campuses in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that welcome both national and international students.  ZU offers globally recognized Bachelor degrees in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, IT and Media. Graduate programs are bilingual in English and Arabic, globally and culturally aware, prepared for leadership roles, and ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


  • Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), the largest higher educational institution with an enrollment of over about 16,000 students. Founded in 1988 with four campuses. HCT now includes 16 men’s and women’s colleges in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Madinat Zayed, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah. The colleges offer more than 80 technical and professional degrees and certifications. More than 10,000 of the current students are female.
Private Institutions

UAE citizens can attend a wide range of private institutions, many with international accreditation, supplement the public sector. The Ministry of Education through its Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) is responsible for the accreditation of private institutions. Some of the key private institutions include:

  • Khalifa University (KU) is an independent, non-profit, coeducational institution inaugurated in 2007 as part of an Abu Dhabi Government initiative. Khalifa University is dedicated to the advancement of learning through teaching and research and to the discovery and application of knowledge. In June 2018 Khalifa University ranked first in the UAE and 315th globally according to the 2019 Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings, placing the university among the top 31% of the 1,011 institutions assessed across the world. KU has been reestablished to combine the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KUSTAR), the Petroleum Institute (PI), and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MI) into one world-class, research-intensive institution, seamlessly integrating research and education to produce world leaders and critical thinkers in applied science and engineering. KU endeavors to be a leader among research intensive universities of the 21st century, while catalyzing the growth of Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s rapidly developing knowledge economy.

Khalifa University of Science and Technology: The newly-unified Khalifa University of Science and Technology has three campuses – a main campus and two satellite campuses in Sas Al Nakhl and Masdar City. The campuses include:

·   Over 250,000 square meters in covered unit space.

·   Multi-cultural environment with vibrant and rich student life.

·   Over 20,000 square meters of dedicated laboratory and research space.

· 16 dedicated research centers exploring a diverse range of energy, water, aerospace and information and communication technology challenges.

·   Over 228 state-of-the-art laboratories investigating subjects ranging from artificial intelligence and robotics to clean energy, hydrocarbons and aerospace.

·   Three major demonstration facilities for solar energy, sustainable buildings and bioenergy.

Petroleum Institute: The Petroleum Institute was established in 2001 to support the oil and gas industry of Abu Dhabi and the wider UAE. To achieve that goal, it developed and offered undergraduate and graduate engineering and research programs in areas of significance to the oil, gas and broader energy industries.

Masdar Institute: The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology was established in 2007 in Abu Dhabi, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as an independent non-profit graduate level research university focused on advanced energy and sustainable technology. The Institute has served to develop the intellectual and human capital of relevance to the UAE’s knowledge economy transformation through its high quality academics and research of relevance to local, regional and global needs.

  • American University in Dubai (AUD), which was founded in 1995 as a private, non-sectarian institution of higher learning, serves UAE nationals and international students who seek world-class career-oriented education.
  • American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK), which was established in April 2009, provides high quality American-style undergraduate and graduate education that encourages lifelong learning and professional education; conducts research to serve the RAK Emirate, the UAE, and the greater region to strengthen community and business development; and promotes human capacity to ensure an educated workforce for social and economic progress.
  • American University of Sharjah (AUS), which was founded in 1997, offers 25 majors and 48 minors at the undergraduate level, and 13 master's degrees programs through the its academic divisions.
  • American University in the Emirates (AUE) offers a variety of high-quality accredited academic programs. AUE’s broad range of programs and specializations are offered by five colleges, one institute, and two centers.
  • University of Sharjah (UOS), which was established in October 1997, aims at being a foundation of higher education utilizing the most modern educational means and curriculum. UOS is comprised of 14 colleges, which offer diverse academic programs of study at the diploma, bachelor’s and master’s levels. The student population at the University has currently reached 8000 with a faculty of 400, which means a faculty member for each 20 students.
  • Ajman University of Science and Technology (AUST), which was founded in 1988 as the Foundation of Ajman University of Science and Technology, has changed its name to Ajman University of Science and Technology since 1996. AUST aims to produce competent and skilled graduates who can be of immediate benefit to society, contributing to its development and well-being.
  • Abu Dhabi University (ADU), which opened its doors in September 2003, offers highly rewarding career oriented undergraduate and graduate degree programs aligned with the needs of UAE and the region through excellence in teaching, student learning, faculty scholarship and engagement in community development. ADU is in a process of continued development with campuses in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

Please refer to the Commission for Academic Accreditation to learn more about licensed institutions of higher education in the UAE.

Private institutions are playing an important role in education across the UAE. A high percentage of students in the UAE are enrolled in private schools, e.g. 50% of all students are in private schools in Dubai and 40% in Abu Dhabi.

Global Partnerships

A number of international universities have campuses and programs in the UAE. Some are housed in special zones, including Dubai Knowledge Village and Academic City. 

The UAE government and the individual Emirates have forged numerous partnerships with US institutions aimed at improving education in the UAE, and promoting exchanges between Western and Arab cultures.

  • New York University is opening a campus in Abu Dhabi, the first comprehensive liberal arts and sciences campus, with a robust research component, to be operated abroad by a major US university. NYU Abu Dhabi graduated its first class in Spring 2014 with 150 students from 39 countries. The campus has a permanent home on Saadiyat Island to house 2,000 students.
  • The Rochester Institute of Technology signed an agreement with officials from Dubai to establish a new campus in the Emirate.

Other special programs include:

  • The Sorbonne opened its Abu Dhabi campus in 2006  awards qualifications under French regulations and standards set by the Sorbonne in Paris.
  • Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health is helping establish a public health doctoral program in the Emirates.

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