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How to apply to university in UAE as an international student

The UAE has a lot to offer to international students. Source: Pexels

If you are looking for a unique study abroad experience, you might want to consider the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The UAE consists of seven emirates including Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al Quwain, and is considered to be among the most liberal countries in the Arabian Gulf.

English is widely spoken there and the country is also home to some of the world’s top universities. Six universities have been featured in the QS World University Rankings 2018, with the United Arab Emirates University ranking the highest. A further seven are included in the 2018 QS Arab Region University Rankings.

Studying in the UAE could provide you with the opportunity to explore its various tourist attractions, such as the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) in Dubai, in addition to being exposed to a multicultural environment as the country is home to many expatriates.

So, if studying in UAE has piqued your interest, here’s a guide on how you can apply to UAE universities as an international undergraduate student:

Research courses and potential institutions

Spend some time looking up courses along with its tuition fees and cost of living to see if studying in the UAE is a viable option for you. Source: Shutterstock

With so many universities offering a variety of courses, it’s essential to allocate sufficient time to explore the courses offered and whether they suit your passion and interests.

There are many public and private institutions in the UAE so it’s important to check the mode of instruction. The country’s official language is Arabic but many universities teach in English.

It’s also important to look up the tuition fees and cost of living to see if studying in the UAE is a financially viable option for you. For example, the total tuition fees at United Arab Emirates University can vary between AED288,000 (US$78,500) and AED390,000 (US$106,000), depending on your course.

Check entry requirements and deadlines

Entry requirements and deadlines will vary between institutions.

Hence, it’s crucial to check their requirements carefully, such as academic and language requirements, before applying. Scour the university’s website and contact them if you need clarification.

If English is not your native language, you will need to complete an IELTS or TOEFL test as proof of your proficiency. Some universities may use Arabic as their language of instruction for certain programmes, so you may be required to show proof of proficiency in Arabic as well.

Submit your application

Once you’ve pored over the details and confident to have met the requirements, you can submit your application before the start of the programme.

While the documents required will vary between institutions, generally, you’ll need to provide the following for admission:

  • Completed application form
  • Copy of a valid passport
  • Certificates and transcripts of your academic qualifications (e.g. high school certificate or its equivalent, university transcripts for credit transfer, etc.)
  • Recent coloured passport-sized photo
  • Proof of English proficiency
  • Application fee (typically non-refundable)

It’s best to contact your university for its full list of entry requirements.

Apply for a student visa

You’ll need a sponsor from a parent or relative in the UAE for your student visa application. Source: Shutterstock

Once you’ve been given an offer of admission to a university, you’ll need to apply for a student visa.

You’ll need a sponsor from a parent or relative in the UAE for your visa application. If you’ve no relatives there, most universities will do this for you. However, contact your institution to check if they offer this service.

A student visa is only valid for one year and needs to be renewed annually, with an official proof of continuation of study from your university. It’s important to note that admission in a UAE university does not guarantee that you’ll be issued a student visa.

The UAE’s government portal notes that “Accredited universities and colleges in the UAE can secure a visa for their students whether international students or students already residing in the UAE. Students should refer to the terms and conditions listed in each university or college to know specific requirements for admission and visa process.”

For details, click here.

Prepare your finances

With two hurdles out of the way, the next step involves determining how much you’ll need to pay each semester for your tuition and miscellaneous fees, along with what the deadlines are.

Ensure you know the payment methods and take note of hidden costs. For example, some universities may charge a fee to students who have made an overpayment and decide to refund the balance while some prices stated may not take into account taxes.

If in doubt, contact your institution for clarification.

Prepare to travel to the UAE

Don’t forget to read up on UAE’s cultural norms. Source: Pexels

Before you hastily pack your bags, book your flight, and bid your friends and family goodbye, make sure you’ve taken the time to read up on UAE’s cultural norms.

Islam is the official religion which plays a big part in the UAE culture and way of life. Thus, you’ll want to be aware of the cultural sensitivities. This includes dressing conservatively when in public and avoiding scheduling meetings with friends or lecturers during prayer times, among others.

Never underestimate the value of preparation – when armed with the right knowledge, your study abroad experience can be a smooth one. Good luck!

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