Bright Prospects for Higher Education Sector in the UAE as Revenues Reach $1bn


Bright Prospects for Higher Education Sector in the UAE as Revenues Reach $1bn

Special to TAG Educa News Agency

DUBAI - The prospects for the higher education sector in the UAE is bright, experts speaking at the forthcoming IPSEF Higher Education Forum say.

UAE based universities have grown consistently in enrolments and revenues at a robust compound annual growth rate of 8-10 percent. The overall student base across local and international university campuses in UAE is estimated to be 162,000, with Dubai hosting around 60,000 students, of which 20 percent are graduate students and 80 percent are in undergraduate level programs.

The current overall revenue base for the higher education market in the UAE is estimated to be over US$ 1bn, and with the sector expected to witness the entry of new players, the market will only increase in value in the next few years.

The data was revealed by Higher Education UAE, whose co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer Ajay Shukla will be heading a panel in IPSEF Higher Education Forum on Transnational Higher Education – Opportunities and Challenges. He will be joined by Cathy Gilbert, Director of External Relations, University of Birmingham; Tariq Shaikh Managing Director, R J Fleming and Partner at RHT Partners; and Jitin Sethi, Senior Vice President, Parthenon-EY.

Taking place on 4-5 October 2017 at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel the IPSEF Higher Education Forum builds upon the successful series of school conferences from the IPSEF stable of high level business events for the international education community. 

This HE-focused conference will address four key stakeholder groups involved in the higher education sector, about opportunities for expansion in the Middle East and North Africa, including colleges and universities who are looking to set-up branches or a new campus in the region, operators of existing higher education institutions, regulators as well as the supplier community that provides products, services and solutions for the higher education sector.

“The region has seen a tremendous growth in the higher education sector, driven by the increase of enrollment in both state colleges and universities as well as private institutions including branch campuses of many well-established entities from abroad that are expected to fill in a growing demand. We believe this new stream will be a suitable venue for sharing best practices and new insights on how the various stakeholder groups can take advantage of the opportunities and mitigate the risks,” said Mark Roelofsen, co-founder, IPSEF.

The UAE is home to one of the largest concentrations of university campuses and programs in the world. Higher Education in the Emirates reflects the population diversity (85 percent expatriates) with campuses from UK, USA, Australia, France, Russia, India and other countries. UAE has also created sector specific free-zones infrastructure including Masdar City, Dubai International Academic City, Dubai International Financial Center, Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Jebel Ali Free Zone, Dubai World Central (transport and logistics), Dubai Design District (D3) that provide a pathway to employability and industry exposure.

Robust local market and access to the broader region with potential to draw students from GCC and MENASA regions make it an attractive hub for student diversity. The key geographies are the UAE, Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan and more recently North Africa and Eastern Europe/CIS.

“Due to clear, consistent and responsive regulations governing setting up of branch campuses or new universities, liberal student/faculty visas, and incubation infrastructure support the UAE market offers a unique opportunity and early mover advantage in establishing a high quality, globally reputed institution. Further, a liberal and modern society is an attraction for high quality academic and professional talent.  It is now at an inflexion point of raising the quality and market relevance of the programs and fostering local research and intellectual base,” said Shukla.

The latest entrant to the UAE’s higher education landscape is the University of Birmingham Dubai, the latest phase in the university’s global expansion and builds on its international teaching activities in Singapore and China, as well as its extensive international research partnerships. “Our own market analysis identified a clear gap in the market for a top 100 global university to establish a campus in Dubai, with clear demand from students from the emirate itself, the wider UAE, as well as from key South Asian and North and Sub-Saharan Africa markets seeking the opportunity to receive the highest quality British education underpinned by a strong research pedigree in this easily accessible location.  This alongside the commitment of the Dubai government to establishing an international education hub, which builds on its high-quality international primary and secondary education system, is driven by a strong English Language base, and supported through the creation of an education free zone, made it the right location for us,” said Cathy Gilbert, Director of External Relations, University of Birmingham.

University of Birmingham Dubai will be located in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and the first phase of the campus will open in late 2017, with the first undergraduate and postgraduate students starting their studies in September 2018. Initially, Dubai students will have a choice of study areas including Business, Economics, Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, and Primary and Secondary Teacher Education, with additional programs in development. Degrees at University of Birmingham Dubai will be taught, examined and accredited to the same recognized high standards as those delivered on the University’s UK campus in Birmingham and all programs carry the approval by the Dubai Government’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA).

Through a series of case studies, panel discussions and key-note presentations the IPSEF HE Forum will raise awareness of the key components involved in developing a strategy for expansion or market entry, and will include how to design a campus abroad, top tips for finding the right partners in the UAE, understanding and complying with various legal frameworks, market reports and data, staff recruitment, student recruitment, as well as presenting case histories from the UAE and the wider MENA region.
Guests will have the opportunity to network with a broad range of senior figures with whom they can build up long-term professional relationships as well as participate in the University Campus tour that is part of the agenda. 

Some of the high profile speakers who will be sharing their expert insights include Ahmed Al Ansari, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Dubai South; Prof Christopher Abraham, Head – Dubai Campus, S P Jain School of Global Management; Ahmed Badreldin, Partner, The Abraaj Group; Dr Warren Fox, Chief of Higher Education, KHDA; Cathy Gilbert, Director of External Relations, University of Birmingham; Roland Hancock, Director, PwC; Clay Hensley, Senior Director, International Higher Education Outreach, The College Board; Prof. Ammar Kaka, Provost and Vice-Principal, Heriot-Watt University and Andy Nicol, Managing Director, Hobsons Solutions; Ian Pratt, Director, Scott Brownrigg; Arjun Puri, Head of admissions, O P Jindal Global University; Dr. Narayanan. Ramachandran, Pro Vice Chancellor, Amity University; Abhishek Sharma, Chief Executive Officer, Foundation Holdings; Ross Barfoot, Partner, Clyde & Co; Zalfa Chamoun Hart, Director, Chamoun Hart; Daniel Adkins, Chief Executive Officer, Transnational Academic Group Middle East; Taner Topcu, Director, RAK FTZ Academic Zone; Cameron Mirza, Head of Transformation, University of Bahrain; and Philip Corfield-Smith, Real Estate Partner, Pinsent Mason.

The IPSEF Higher Education Forum is taking place alongside IPSEF Middle East, scheduled on 3-5 October at the same venue. The latter is an equally high-level conference focusing on the private and international schools market in the region. Further information on both events, including registration details, may be obtained by visiting