This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 8/7/2019

Overview

UNESCO Student Mobility Number:  11,503. This is number of UAE students studying abroad.  That’s the latest statistics from UNESCO (year 2017)[1].
CIA World Factbook – Percent of population under 24 years of age:  22 percent[2]This indicates the percentage of population under 24 years of age residing in the UAE according to the CIA World Factbook.
0-14 years: 14.39 percent (male:  724,904 / female:  671,524)
15-24 years: 7.64 percent (male:  408,376 / female:  332,986)

The education system in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is divided into public schools, private schools and higher education.  The Ministry of Education (MoE) oversees all UAE-based education councils and authorities as per the following: 
Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) was established in 2005, it was formerly known as Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), and was primarily responsible for the management and administration of the Abu Dhabi’s public schools.  It also acted as the regulatory body that provided licensing and accreditation to private schools in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and the Western Emirates setting the minimum standards that must be met in terms of educational outcomes, health, safety, building and site requirements.  In September 2017, ADEK was made a government department according to a decree issued by President Sheikh Khalifa and was named the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK).  The MoE and ADEK announced a plan achieve the standardization of the UAE’s education systems to support a unified and highly-performing education sector across the UAE.  The plan will unify the education sector through the development of the Emirati School Model across all emirates. 

Knowledge and Human Development (KHDA) in Dubai was established in 2006, KHDA is responsible for inspecting all private schools in Dubai to ensure proper quality of education, from early learning to higher and continuing education. 

Education remains a top government priority in the UAE.  The UAE Vision 2021emphasizes the development of a first-rate education system.   As such, this sector continues to experience rapid expansion.  The UAE’s education market is expected to grow from $4.4 billion in 2017 to $7.1 billion by 2023 according to a 2018 report released by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) entitled “Where to Invest Now in GCC Private Education”.  In line with Vision 2021, the UAE’s Ministry of Education (MoE) has developed the Education 2020 Strategy, which is designed to bring significant qualitative improvement in the education system.  Smart learning programs, new teachers' codes, licensing and evaluations systems, as well as curriculum revision, including teaching mathematics and science through English, are all part of the strategy. 
In May 2019, the UAE Cabinet agreed upon the strategy for the Advances Skills National Program[3], a plan that is focused on Emirati students and professionals acquiring advanced skills that can help the UAE stay on top of the advanced skills worldwide competition and create an efficient and sustainable environment for the country’s development. 

The UAE’s federal budget for 2018 allocated $2.8 billion for General, Higher and University Education Programs, which represents 20 percent of the total budget.  Due to the transient nature of the expatriate population in the UAE, parents prefer to enroll their children in international schools.  Hence, demand for private education has been on the rise, leading to strong overall growth in the education sector.  In the UAE, private school enrollments are expected to increase from approximately 56 percent to 66 percent over the course of the next five years according to the BCG report. 

According to the BCG report, there is currently an oversupply of international private schools with high and premium-range fees in Dubai, and not enough international private schools with low- and medium-range fees.  In 2017, schools with high- and premium-range fees reportedly began to advertise, implement loyalty programs, and slash their fees by as much as 33 percent to attract and retain students.  In December 2018, education authorities in Abu Dhabi announced that a total of ten new schools offering affordable fee structures are set to open in the emirate over the next three years adding that they will readily make plots and vacant public-school buildings available to investors for the development of new schools.  According to education experts, the emirate of Sharjah is also in need for affordable schools with tuition fees ranging from $5,500 to $9,500. 
Similar to K12 education, higher education enrollments in Dubai have been steadily increasing according to a 2018 report by Colliers International entitled “Higher Education in Dubai, UAE Coming of Age”.  The supporting factors identified include: the growing population, the popularity of Dubai with students from neighboring emirates, and the variety of institutions available.  There has also been a growing preference towards international higher education institutes amongst Emirati parents and professionals seeking to complete their higher education while working in the emirate.  In higher education, only five foreign universities have full campuses in the UAE including two U.S. institutions: Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai and New York University Abu Dhabi. 
There continues to be an ongoing influence of pioneer U.S. institutions.  Recently Virginia International announced a partnership with the UAE Space Agency to open a center for training young student astronauts in Abu Dhabi, attracting the participation of over 50 students. 

Sub-Sectors

In terms of mobility, the United Arab Emirates has 2,486 Emirati students studying in the United States for the academic year 2017-2018, a decrease of 9.7 percent from the previous year, according to the IIE Open Doors Open Data report.  The majority of Emirati students studying abroad are majoring in Space Science, Engineering, Business and Information Technology and are majoring in
Space Science, Engineering, Business and Information Technology come from a public-school background.  The top 5 receiving states are:  California, New York, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts.  The report provides the following segmentation: 


Graduate Education:  266 students (10.7 percent) enrolled in graduate education in 2017, a decrease of 26.1 percent from the previous year.
Undergraduate:  1940 students (78 percent) enrolled in undergraduate education in 2017, a decrease of 3.3 percent from the previous year.
Non-Degree Studies:  215 students (8.6 percent) enrolled in non-degree programs in 2017, a decrease of 27.1 percent from the previous year.

Optional Practical Training (OPT):  65 students (2.6 percent) enrolled in OPT programs in 2017, a decrease of 28.6 percent from the previous year. 

Opportunities in Higher Education 

According to Colliers International, the higher education sector still offers a number of opportunities for investors and operators to grow, as currently, only 15 percent of total K12 students attend private universities in Dubai.  Business related courses remain the most popular choice in Dubai, followed by engineering and agriculture, then media and design. 
A report released by Najah[4] Abu Dhabi on the students’ and parents’ preferences on educational preferences, shows a strong preference for U.S. institutions, showing that they are amongst Emiratis’ top choices.  While in high school, the greatest percentage (33.2 percent) of students are following the American curriculum, which is widely available since 68.4 percent of students attend private schools.  The report is based on a survey conducted during the annual Najah Abu Dhabi education fair, the largest education fair in the UAE, shows that 71 percent attended the event to get informed about undergraduate studies opportunities, while 58.8 percent of the visitors intended to study abroad of the UAE and 33.2 percent of them in the United States specifically. Taking into consideration that after the “Courses Offered”, the next most important determinant of the students’ university decision (with 61.8 percent) is the “Location and Country”, it is indicated that The U.S. universities are the preferred choice for students wanting to study abroad.  On the parents’ side, 62 percent of the parents attended the Najah show to find universities abroad, with 34.4 percent of them having the U.S. institutions as their most prevalent preference.  Despite the high demand of top of the range U.S. institutions, the show is primarily occupied by regional universities. [5] We see an opportunity for U.S. universities to have a stronger appearance in such trade shows. 

Simultaneously, there is continued demand for study in the United States in graduate, under-graduate and non-graduate studies. However, the largest number of tertiary level students from the UAE go to UK according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The United States ranks second.   There is also a demand to open higher education institutions in the UAE.  There is a total of 30 government-affiliated scholarship granting institutions which offer a number of scholarships to a select number of top U.S. universities, including ADEK, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), Abu Dhabi Police, Dubai Police, and Presidential Department.  Online programs are not covered under the scholarship programs.  However, educational experts noted that there is a real demand for online programs in executive education. 

K to 12 Education 
To meet the needs of Emirati students, there is a need in the UAE for high-quality schools, with a rating of “good” or better, that cater specifically to local preferences (for example- by offering gender segregation and adequate provision of Arabic and religious studies). 

For expatriate families, there is a need for high-quality schools, with fees in the low to mid-tuition range, structured around the International Baccalaureate (IB) and U.S. curriculum among others. There is also an opportunity to leverage Dubai’s drive to become a test-bed for innovation by introducing schools with modern, digital approaches to education. 

Related Events

Najah Education & Training Exhibition
Date:  October 20- November 1, 2019
Venue:  Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, Abu Dhabi
Website:  www.najahonline.com

EdEx Mena Investment (Conference & Exhibition)
Date: November 18-19, 2019
Venue :  Le Méridien Hotel, Dubai
Website :  https://education.knect365.com/edex-mena/   

International Education Show,
Date:  January 22-24, 2020
Venue: Expo Center Sharjah
Website:  www.educationshow.ae 

International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF)
Date:  February 10-12, 2020
Venue:  Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai
Website:  www.icef.com 

Global Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS)
Date:  February 25-27, 2020
Venue:  Sheikh Saeed Halls, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai
Website:  www.gesseducation.com 

Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF)
Date:  Not been announced yet but will be in March 2020
Venue:  Atlantis the Palm, Dubai
Website:  www.educationandskillsforum.org-

Gulf Education and Training Exhibition (GETEX)
Date:  April 16-18, 2020
Venue:  Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, Dubai
Website:  www.mygetex.com

BETT Middle East and North Africa
Date: September14-15, 2020
Venue:  Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, Abu Dhabi
Website:  www.mena.bettshow.com

Web Resources

Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK)
Boston Consulting Group
Colliers International
EducationUSA
Ministry of Education
Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA)

 

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United Arab Emirates Education Trade Development and Promotion