Being a university or a college student in Dubai has its advantages, such as beaches, sun, interesting culture, along to access to a numerous universities, specialized student facilities, training and e-learning centers, in addition to a chance for tax-free earnings after you graduate. That is why Dubai is striving to establish a reputation of a popular destination not only for GCC, but also for thousands of international students.
Dubai offers a rich choice of universities and colleges. The emirate has 5 public and 58 private higher education institutes. When combined, they amount to a total of 63 institutes. They vary in the subjects and level of degree program they offer (undergraduate or postgraduate). In addition, higher education institutes in Dubai are categorized either as a branch campus or as a local university or college. Branch campuses are universities which were founded outside the United Arab Emirates, but have a campus in Dubai. Namely, these campuses are responsible for the rise in the number of international students in the emirate. Local universities, on the other hand, were both established and based in the emirate
According to Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the amount of students that are attending universities in Dubai is very close to reaching 50,000. That estimate includes full-time and part-time students. However, less than half of them (43%) are Emirati students and the majority are of other nationalities. Students from the second group are either foreign students, or expats currently living in the UAE. Western expats, in general, prefer to send their children back home to complete their higher education.
Some universities and colleges provide student accommodation in Dubai for all students who have filed an accommodation application. Others, however, offer housing only for students coming outside the emirate. The types of accommodation provided for foreign students may vary from on-campus housing or even to stays in hotel rooms, since some universities have a partnership with local hotels and offer discounted rates for students who are not from the emirate. Forget about student loans, or evening jobs and sharing accommodations! Dubai strives to attract rich students with taste for hotel lifestyle.
Although student accommodation in Dubai is usually located near the university itself, it might be also be quite limited. As a result, some universities take into account a student’s family size, grades, as well as the type of contract he or she has signed with the university in question. Therefore, the more well-to-do students avoid university accommodation and opt for private accommodation. In other words, they do not stay in the hall of residence, but rent a house or an apartment.
Living in a big city like Dubai can be very expensive. Everything from private housing, food, transportation, entertainment and utilities is pricey in the emirate. That is why international students are often advised to prepare a monthly budget of AED 5,000 – AED 15,000 at the least. However, their monthly costs also depend on whether they are going to have an on- or off-campus housing. Both options, however, often require students to pay in advance of up to an entire year. Those who choose to stay at an on-campus accommodation will need to prepare about AED 3,000 for the rent per month, whereas students who prefer private housing will have to have at least double that amount.
It should be noted that some Dubai colleges and universities require on-campus students to pay extra fees for Internet connection, food, laundry and various other services of personal nature. In addition, they will not allow students to use their room when the semester ends. If students want to use their room during that period, they are charged a daily rate and that can be quite expensive.
When combined with the overpriced tuition fees, which can reach up to AED 70,000 – AED 90,000 per year on average, being a foreign student in Dubai becomes an expensive option. Only a residence student visa may cost you about 7,000 Dirhams. This creates a gap between rich and poor students who want to continue their education in the emirate. Well-to-do international students are willing to pay generously so that they could have an entire room or even an apartment all by themselves. The less fortunate undergraduates- or postgraduates-to-be, on the other hand, are forced to leave matters in the hand of the higher education institute where they have enrolled and hope that they will get a nice accommodation, if they get one at all.
However, an even bigger problem comes from the fact that an increasing number of rich foreign students apply for on-campus accommodation. They have figured out that they may save money for leisure activities, as well as to meet and interact with other international students. As a result, many foreign students are not able to find an affordable housing solution on campus, especially if they fail to arrive very early before the start of the academic year.
Every problem has a solution and this case makes no exception. If universities start to base their housing approvals on students’ income, that could make the situation for many more bearable. However, education in Dubai is a big business and investors in the field are firm when it comes to calculating their profits. Even primary and secondary schools, like Repton Dubai for example, in the past have been reported to send students back home for late fee payments.
An option for more affordable student accommodation in Dubai could be some form of partnership between universities and local landlords, or even with developers, with the aim to provide more affordable housing options for their students. In reality, this suggestion might turn into another profit-making opportunity for investors in education.
Promoting Dubai as an international higher education hub is of course a ser