UAE universities more popular than Singapore, South Korea - report
The United Arab Emirate of Dubai emerges from obscurity as a study destination. Source: Shutterstock

The United Arab Emirates has been deemed a more popular study destination than its East Asian counterparts with world-renowned universities, like those found in South Korea and Singapore.

According to a survey by Dubai International Academic City and BMI Media: “UAE [is] similar in popularity to Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland and New Zealand, all of which are long-term established destinations for international students.”

But it’s the revelation that the Middle East is more popular than Singapore and South Korea that’s more surprising, given that both host some of the highest-ranking universities in the world.

Seoul National University is ranked 63rd on the Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings 2019, while the National University of Singapore is 23rd. Conversely, the UAE’s highest-ranking institution, Khalifa University, is ranked at the 301-350th position, followed by the United Arab Emirates University at the 351-400th spot.

“The UAE’s ranking in preferred destinations outranking Singapore and South Korea shows the region as an emerging global player in international education destination of choice for students around the world,” the report notes.

The UAE remains behind the popularity of heavyweight study destinations like the US (chosen by 38 percent of respondents as their country of choice), Canada (33.8 percent), United Kingdom (27.4 percent), Germany (25.4 percent) and Australia (20.7 percent). The UAE garnered a total four percent of votes.

Its increasing popularity can be traced back to shifts in the international education sphere.

Indians, who form the UAE’s largest expatriate community, account for about 30 percent of the country’s population of eight million. Many of them were the labourers behind the construction boom. Source: AFP/Karim Sahib

India is forecast to surpass China as the largest provider of international students globally, according to the report. BMI Director Rupert Merrick said in a statement, as reported by The PIE News:

“This new generation [of Indians] is highly motivated and eager to pursue degrees abroad.

“Our findings have confirmed that the education landscape is shifting.

“We were intrigued to learn that most of the educational institutions surveyed expect India to become the fastest-growing student market, a position that was dominated by China for the past decade.”

With a young population and continuous growth in its economy, Indian nationals are interested and can afford to pursue degrees abroad. With its close proximity to India, the UAE has been a popular choice for Indians in recent years. The report found that 85.9 percent of UAE students catalogued are Indian nationals.

Gulf News reported that the falling Indian rupee has also made “the more price-sensitive” applicants from India opt for universities in the UAE instead of those in the West. The student recruitment expert said: “You have to remember that the dirham is linked to the US dollar, so if the rupee is down against the dirham, it is also down against the US dollar…

“As the UAE is more of a cost-effective location, I think those more price-sensitive students from India will be saying, ‘I want to study overseas, maybe the UK and northern Europe is a bit out of reach — what is my next opportunity?’ Even though there are cheaper areas to study than the UAE, I think the UAE can have that cost-benefit advantage.”

The survey is titled Transnational Student Mobility and University Trends in 2018: University Marketing Methodologies, Offerings and Student Recruitment Strategies. 104 universities from 41 countries across six continents – the majority based in the USA, UK, Canada and the UAE – participated in the survey.

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