United Arab Emirates Education and Training Sector Snapshot
Last published date:

Capital:  Abu Dhabi

Population:  10,175,298 million (Nov.2022)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):  $ 724.07 billion (2021 est.)

Currency:  Emirati dirhams (AED)

Language:  Arabic (official)


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

The United Arab Emirates has 14,689 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.


CIA World Factbook

22.39% of the population in the UAE is under 25 years old.



The UAE is a very competitive education market within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region.  It has a large presence of established public and private institutions.

Education remains a top government priority to create a diversified, knowledge-based economy and reduce the dependency on oil.  Education represents 15.5% of the country’s $17.1 billion federal budget for 2023.  The UAE has also devised a “National Strategy for Higher Education 2030” that seeks to equip future generations of students with technical and practical skills to strengthen the labor market.  It also aims to strengthen accreditation standards, set a framework of qualifications, and further develop the curricula to match international standards. 

The education system in the United Arab Emirates is divided into public schools, private schools, and higher education.  Private institutions are generally not under direct government control but are nevertheless bound by guidelines set forth by the federal ministry and local authorities.

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 Abu Dhabi’s public schools while also acting 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, and building and site requirements.

In September 2017, ADEC was renamed the Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) and made a government department according to a decree issued by President Sheikh Khalifa.  Under this new mandate, ADEK is responsible for regulating private schools and higher education in Abu Dhabi.  In 2018, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and ADEK announced a plan for the standardization of the UAE’s education systems to support a unified and highly performing education sector across the UAE.

The K-12 education sector is strongly dominated by private schools.  Private schools in the UAE offer around 17 different curricula, with a predominance of UK, U.S., and Indian models.  ADEK has also introduced ‘Charter schools’ as a third model of the schools education system, besides the existing public and private schools models. Charter schools offer American-based curriculum to public school students who are based in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.  It is a strategic partnership between the public and the private sector.

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.  Along with the Dubai Education Council (DEC), it is responsible for the overall governance and development of the education sector.

Dubai is home to education free zone the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) for tertiary education.  DIAC includes 28 international universities.  Moreover, the Dubai government has established the Dubai Knowledge Village, a free zone for educational institutions in the region.

Due to the transient nature of the expatriate population in the UAE, parents prefer to enroll their children in international private schools.

In higher education, two U.S. institutions have full campuses in the UAE:  the Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai and New York University Abu Dhabi.


Higher Education:  During the academic year 2021-2022, the UAE had 1,618 students in the United States in undergraduate, graduate, non-degree, and optional practical training (OPT) programs, according to the 2022 Open Doors Report, a decrease of 6.9% from the previous year. 

Undergraduate and Graduate Education:  1,288 Emirati students enrolled in undergraduate education in the United States during the 2021-2022 academic year, representing a decrease of 7.9% from the previous year, 248 enrolled in graduate-level studies, representing a 6.4 increase, 34 students enrolled in non-degree studies, representing a 48.5% decrease from the previous year and 48 students enrolled in OPT, representing an increase of 23.1% from the previous year. There is continued demand for study in the United States in graduate, undergraduate, and non-degree studies.  However, there is strong competition from the United Kingdom, where a large number of students travel for study. 

There is also a demand to open higher education institutions in the UAE.  In October 2020, the U.S.-UAE launched a bilateral Strategic Dialogue, including education as one of the strategic sectors to advance institutional capacity and economic diversification.

Opportunities in the higher education sector include institutional partnerships between U.S. and UAE universities, support for college preparation programs, and faculty exchange and short-term student exchange to promote a culture of curiosity, innovation, and academic achievement across the UAE’s education system.

Community College:  In September 2022, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) has launched the Khotwa (RizeUp) fully funded scholarship program (USD 517,000), which will create opportunities for Emirati students to study for two years at community colleges in the United States and Canada, before transferring their credit to any international or local university to complete their bachelor’s degrees, when necessary, requirements are met.  This new program will offer 6,000 Emirati students from 2022 to 2028 overseas experiences to study specialties that meet the demands of national high-priority sectors and equip students with future-ready skills to contribute to the growth of the knowledge economy.

Community colleges looking to recruit students based in the UAE should focus on the unique experiences and values offered to students.  They should highlight programs and partnerships with highly ranked universities and skills training programs.

Secondary Education:  U.S. support is needed to train staff, UAE high-school counselors, and English teachers.  The U.S. government is working with the UAE Ministry of Education to leverage U.S. expertise for the professional development of English teachers and counselors.

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 the UAE’s drive to become a test bed for innovation by introducing schools with modern, digital approaches to education.

Online Programs:  The UAE Ministry of Education does not award scholarships to Emirati students enrolled in online programs.  Opportunities exist for two-way virtual exchange programs between U.S. and UAE universities.  As an example, American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) signed an agreement with Wayne State University (WSU) in October 2020.

In October 2018, the UAE launched Madrasa, a free eLearning platform that provides 5,000 free Arabized videos in general science, math, biology, chemistry, and physics.  It also provides 11 million words of educational content to students from kindergarten to grade 12.   Source: Madrasa (the eLearning platform) - The Official Portal of the UAE Government.

Research & Development:  Joint collaboration in research and development presents opportunities for U.S. and UAE universities.  The UAE Ministry of Education is interested in the following research focus areas: climate change, water and desalination, food security, and health sciences.

Professional Training Services:  Opportunities exist for programs in executive education, training opportunities, or leadership development.  However, many large companies build their programs in-house.

Education Technology:  Opportunities exist to expand ties between the U.S. and the UAE through connections with top U.S. education technology companies.


According to International Education Specialists’ (IDP) UAE office, the digital marketing strategies used by students are the following:

For most educational webinars and online sessions, UAE-based students use Microsoft Teams and Zoom, as well as WebEx in rare cases.  These platforms are not only used by in-country schools, but also by competitor countries to reach students in the UAE.

Additionally, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube (for streaming videos), and Facebook are the most popular social media sites for UAE students, although Facebook is less popular among the younger generation.  The most popular information search site for UAE students is Google. Therefore, it is important to make sure content on educational opportunities is up-to-date and your institution’s search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is strong.  Some of the popular online platforms for UAE students seeking job opportunities are: Gulf Talent, Monster, Bayt.com, and LinkedIn.  However, not all students have a LinkedIn account.  Students and parents are generally kept informed via email marketing, online, and through counselors and local schools.  These events allow students the opportunity to meet the universities directly or through virtual channels.        


  • International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF) Dubai
    Emirates Towers Dubai, Dubai, UAE
    February 13-15, 2023
    Website: ICEF Dubai - https://www.icef.com/events/icef-dubai/
  • Global Education and Training Exhibition (GETEX)
    Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Center, Dubai, UAE
    April 26-28, 2023

Website: https://mygetex.com/

  • Education Investment MENA (EdEx MENA)

Conrad Dubai, Dubai, UAE

September 27-28, 2023

Website: https://informaconnect.com/education-investment-mena/

  • Najah Expo Dubai

Dubai World Trade Center (DWTC), Dubai, UAE
October 8-10, 2023

Website: https://informaconnect.com/najahexpo/

  • Najah Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Abu Dhabi, UAE
October 29-31, 2023

Website: https://informaconnect.com/najahexpo/

  • Global Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS)
    Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), Zabeel Halls 4, 5, 6, Dubai, UAE
    October 30 – November 1, 2023
    Website: https://www.gessdubai.com/




Maya Najm, Senior Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Abu Dhabi, UAE

Email: Maya.Najm@trade.gov

Phone:  +971 2 414 2518