This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 3/15/2019

UNESCO Student Mobility Number: 11,503 
CIA World Factbook – Percent of population under 24 years of age:22.03% 

Overview
The education system in the United Arab Emirates 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) – 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 – 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 2021, launched in 2010, emphasizes 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.  

The UAE’s federal budget for 2018 allocated 2.8 billion USD for General, Higher and University Education Programs, which represents 20% 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% to attract and retain students. In December 2018, education authorities in Abu Dhabi announced that a total of 10 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 and consultants, the emirate of Sharjah is also in need for affordable schools with tuition fees ranging from 5,500 to 9,500 USD.

Similar to K12 education, higher education enrollments in Dubai has 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.

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% from the previous year, according to the IIE Open Doors Open Data report.   The majority of Emirati students studying abroad 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%) enrolled in graduate education in 2017, a decrease of 26.1% from the previous year.

Undergraduate: 1940 students (78%) enrolled in undergraduate education in 2017, a decrease of 3.3% from the previous year.               

Non-Degree Studies: 215 students (8.6%) enrolled in non-degree programs in 2017, a decrease of 27.1% from the previous year.

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

Opportunities
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% 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.

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 United Kingdom 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.  Such institutions include ADEK, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), Abu Dhabi Police, Dubai Police, 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.

Events

  • International Education Show, Jan 30-Feb 1, 2019, Expo Center Sharjah  www.educationshow.ae 
  • International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF), Feb 11-13, 2019, Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Dubai www.icef.com 
  • Global Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS), Feb 26-28, 2019, Sheikh Saeed Halls, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai www.gesseducation.com 
  • Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF), Mar 22-24, 2019, Atlantis the Palm, Dubai www.educationandskillsforum.org 
  • Gulf Education and Training Exhibition (GETEX), Apr 17-19, 2019, Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, Dubai www.mygetex.com 
  • BETT Middle East and North Africa, Apr 22-23, 2019, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, Abu Dhabi https://mena.bettshow.com/ 
  • Najah Education & Training Exhibition, Oct 2019, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, Abu Dhabi  https://www.najahonline.com  
  • EdEx Mena Investment (Conference & Exhibition), Nov 2019, Le Meridien Hotel, Dubai
  • https://education.knect365.com/edex-mena/ 


Resources
Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) www.adek.abudhabi.ae   
Boston Consulting Group (https://www.bcg.com/en-us/offices/dubai/default.aspx 
Colliers International http://www.colliers.com/en-us/unitedarabemirates EducationUSA www.educationusa.state.gov
Ministry of Education www.moe.gov.ae
Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) www.khda.gov.ae/en 
 
U.S. Commercial Service Contact
Maya Najm
Commercial Specialist
maya.najm@trade.gov
+971 2 414 2518
 

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United Arab Emirates Education Trade Development and Promotion