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The UAE Higher Education System

The Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) is responsible for higher education in UAE. The higher education system in UAE consists of both public and private institutions. The public higher education institutions are administered by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The UAE citizens can attend public institutions free of charge. The private higher education institutions are licensed and accredited by the Ministry's Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA). 

Institutions of higher education in the UAE provided courses in the fields engineering, art, medicine, media, and so on.. The three main government higher education institutions in the UAE are UAE University, Higher Colleges of Technology and Zayed University. Some of the governmental higher education institutions in the UAE are restricted to nationals only. However, there are many private higher education institutions where admission is open to any student who fulfills the admission requirements.

Main Laws Regulating Higher Education in UAE

Law: Federal Law no 4, 1992
Deals with: Autonomy of the University

Law: Federal Law no 4, 1976
Deals with: University of the United Arab Emirates

Higher Education Institutions: Snapshot

The higher education institutions in UAE are split up into three categories:
  • Public institutions
  • Private institutions
  • Global Partnerships

Public Universities

UAE public higher education institutions are:

United Arab Emirates (UAE) University awards undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

Zayed University (ZU) is organized into 5 colleges:
  • Arts and Sciences
  • Business Sciences
  • Communication and Media Sciences
  • Education
  • Information Systems
The primary language of instruction at Zayed University is English. 

Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is the largest higher education institution in UAE. The institution offer programmes at four different credential levels—Diploma, higher diploma, bachelor and masters. 

Private Higher Education Institutions

Some of the private higher education institutions in UAE are as follows:
  • American Universities of Sharjah and Dubai
  • Sharjah University
  • Ajman University of Science and Technology
  • Abu Dhabi University 
  •  Al Hosn University

Global Partnerships

Many of the international universities and colleges have campuses or programmes in the UAE. Some of these multi-universities and colleges that are put in special zones and they attract students from the region who are unable to go abroad to study. 

Higher Education Qualifications


Bachelor's Degree: This degree programme lasts for 4 years and require between 132 and 136 credit hours. The Bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery take 6 years. The main language of instruction is English. Also, certain studies are taught in Arabic. 

Master's Degree: A Master's Degree is awarded after 1 year of further study beyond the Bachelor's degree in engineering, environmental sciences, and business administration. 

Doctorate studies is also offered by some of the universities and lasts for 3 years after the Master's studies. Doctor of business administration and doctor of pharmacy are offered by the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU).  

Admission Requirements and Procedure

The higher education institutions in UAE decide its own admission norms. However, they may vary depending on the institution and course of study. Generally, students must have a secondary school leaving certificate in order to gain admittance into university first level of studies. For admission to the federal higher education institutions, all the students must take a Common Education Proficiency Assessment (CEPA) exam that assesses their competency in English and mathematics. 

To know about the admission procedure, click here.

Funding Options

In UAE, there are financial support is provided to students. Contact the concerned institution directly to know about your funding options as an international student. The Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB) provides bank loans at low rates to pupils who are studying at the British University in Dubai (BUID).

Student Visa

International students who wish to study in UAE are required to apply for student visa. You need to be financed by a UAE institution as recognised by the UAE Ministry of Education. Students can apply for student visa through the immigration authorities. They are generally valid for a period of 1 year.  

Course Fees

International students are required to pay course fees for all higher education institutions in the UAE, along with the registration fee. The course fees vary depending on the institution and the course.
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