Study Guide to UAE for international students
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a prominent destination for Indian students. This is because UAE has an international reputation as a business hub, geographical location, accessibility, security, multicultural affiliations, relaxed labour laws, migration opportunities, quality of life, and educational opportunities. Lately, Indian students are becoming more inclined towards studying in the UAE because many international universities are situated here such as Manipal Academy of Higher Education, The British University Dubai, American University in The Emirates, etc. A student studying at international universities situated in the UAE gets international recognition that further improves their career opportunities.
With many distinguished brands and businesses setting up their offices in the UAE, Indian students have the opportunity to take up better jobs. Also, students have the opportunity to work with a multicultural workforce closer to home rather than flying to countries situated far away. The UAE is home to expats from over 150 countries. Since people of different communities reside in the UAE, international students can meet and interact with students from different nationalities. Studying with peers belonging to different countries will improve the communication and networking skills of students.
The pro-business policies and regulations introduced by the Government of UAE are helping people to focus on entrepreneurship, thereby reaffirming the UAE’s position as a home away from home for students and businesses.
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Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in the UAE and the centre of the UAE’s oil industry. Dubai, on the other hand, is the most populous city in UAE and here, international students can find ample opportunities to develop professionally as well as personally. The Islamic culture, cutting-edge attractions like Burj Khalifa and Palm Islands, and innovation and modern culture have made the UAE an unparalleled destination for students all over the world.
Here in this article, we have compiled some of the reasons to study in the UAE. From popular universities to lifestyle tips, education system, accommodation, and admission process, we have covered every aspect in this UAE guide that is necessary for international students to know.
Education System in UAE
The education system in the UAE is broadly categorized into three categories; private schools, public schools, and higher educational institutes. In the UAE, both primary and secondary education is free and compulsory in public schools for girls and boys both for citizens throughout the UAE. Education in the UAE starts from kindergarten and goes to primary, preparatory, secondary level, and technical secondary school. Arabic is the main medium of instruction. However, an equal emphasis is given to the English language as well.
Higher education in the UAE can be categorized into private and public. The UAE offers a wide range of degrees like bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, associate’s degrees, and doctoral degrees. Vocational courses are also offered at higher education institutes in the UAE. The higher education system in the UAE is diverse and well-established. 95% of the females and 80% of the males who are enrolled in the final year of secondary school go for higher education in the UAE.
Also, there are many private institutes in the UAE that offer tertiary-level opportunities. Some of the esteemed institutes in the UAE are Sharjah University, the American University of Sharjah, and the Ajman University of Science and Technology. For some years now, many foreign universities have also set up their campuses in the UAE. Some of the universities that have established their campuses in the country are American University in Dubai, Middlesex University in Dubai, Birla Institute of Technology of Sciences, etc.
Popular Student Destinations in UAE
BITS, Pilani Dubai campus; Amity University, Dubai campus; Westford University College; Middlesex University, Dubai; Gulf Medical University; University of Wollongong, and Abu Dhabi University are some of the popular universities in the UAE. The most popular courses in the UAE are Business and Management Studies and Engineering. Some of the popular course choices for students in the UAE are Tourism & Hospitality Management, Business and Management, Civil Engineering / Construction Management / Aerospace Engineering and Architecture.
Safety in UAE
When it comes to safety standards, then the United Arab Emirates is a very safe country. Cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai have a high standard of safety and crimes are extremely rare here. On a different note, the penalties for breaking laws in the UAE are severe and students should familiarize themselves with local laws and customs in advance. According to World Economic Forum (WEF), UAE has been ranked the second safest country in the world.
The UAE has a desert-type climate, which is characterized by mild winters and very hot, sunny summers. Rain occurs rarely in the UAE and even though it does, it happens in the form of showers or downpours. There are two main seasons in the UAE; Winter and Summer. In winter, the temperature ranges from 16.4 degree Celsius to 24 degrees Celsius. The summer season, on the other hand, is characterized by extremely high temperatures that can go up to 50 degrees Celsius, especially over the Southern parts. The mean temperature during the summer ranges from 32 to 37 degrees Celsius.
The UAE is an extremely diverse and multicultural country. The quality of life in the UAE is non-comparable. It is voted as one of the best places for expats to live and work. While studying in the UAE, it is important to respect the local culture. Here are some of the lifestyle tips:
- It takes time to settle in a new country. Hence, be patient to understand the local culture
- Click the pictures of the important landmarks so that you can easily visit the same place again
- Be courteous and try to show respect to each gender
- Accept the iftar invitations, if any. This will help you know the local customs and you will be able to connect with new people
- Learn basic Arabic words so that you can converse with the local people easily
Facilities in UAE
The UAE has been consistently chosen by expats as a country to live in because of its modern accommodation and medical facilities, exceptional private schools, conducive business environment, and highly developed infrastructure.
Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates. However, various other languages are also spoken such as Hindi, Persian, Pashto, and Balochi. English is also widely spoken here. From road signs to menus at restaurants, everything is in English. If students do not know Arabic much, then they should learn some day-to-day Arabic words. Shukran, which means Thanks in English will take students a long way. This is just a basic courtesy word that can be used in shops, restaurants, and basically, everywhere students will go.
Night Life in UAE
The United Arab Emirates has some great cafes and nightclubs. Dubai is a great place to live if students want to go out after classes. There are lively bars, bustling nightclubs, and luxurious bistros.
There are two options for students when it comes to accommodation; university housing and private housing. University accommodation is a slightly cheaper option as compared to private accommodation. The dormitories are usually shared between students. Most universities provide fully furnished dorms with amenities like Wi-Fi, TV, dining halls, and even an indoor gym.
Private Housing options are also available for students who want to stay outside the university-managed accommodation. Private houses are generally expensive in the UAE. They usually come as a one-bedroom studio flat or sometimes two or even three-bedroom shared flats.
Besides sports, universities or colleges in the UAE also demand students to take part in extra-curricular activities. Performing arts, cultural or community engagement, dance clubs or drama clubs, music clubs, and visit religious centres or historical sites, art galleries or museums are all a part of college life. Plenty of recreational activities can also be done while staying in the UAE. It has beaches, great restaurants, and huge shopping malls.
Students’ admission at UAE universities or colleges will be felicitated by the Orientation programme. A warm welcome will be given to the new students. Many universities in the UAE will arrange extended orientation programmes, probably a week long, while others may arrange 2-3 days of orientation. During the orientation, students will be informed about the rules and regulations of the universities, including study plans and other academic details.
How to Apply to UAE Universities from India?
The terms and conditions to apply to UAE universities may vary from university to university. However, the common points and criteria that must be kept in mind are listed below.
International students who have done schooling from the Indian boards must have at least 50% to 60% to apply for undergraduate programmes. Apart from this, students must also fulfil the English language requirements by obtaining the required score in IELTS or TOEFL. In spite of the fact that many universities teach in English, you may also be required to prove your fluency in Arabic.
For the postgraduate courses, the basic eligibility requirements will require students to have a bachelor’s degree. Students must maintain aggregate marks of 50% to 60% in the bachelor’s degree. Besides this, students must also have the necessary marks in IELTS / TOEFL / PTE.
Given below is the list of the documents that have to be submitted to the universities:
- Attested copies of the mark sheets of classes 10th and 12th
- Statement of Purpose
- Two academic reference letters from the professors who have taught you during school
- Score reports of IELTS / TOEFL / PTE
- Proof of funds
- Portfolio (in case of students applying for art and design courses and architecture programmes)
- Any extra-curricular activities certificates
SOP: A Statement of Purpose is a long essay that is required at universities situated abroad. As the name suggests, it is an essay where students have to tell their purpose of applying to a particular course in a university. This essay must constitute the outline of who students are as a person, what they want to become, and how ready they are to pursue a certain course in the university. It is one of the documents that give students an opportunity to prove that they have something unique which will make them stand out from the crowd.
LOR: A Letter of Recommendation (LOR) is a reference letter that provides the admission officers of the university insight into the qualities, capabilities, and characteristics of a prospective student. A third party provides this LOR. Any professor or direct manager could be a third party.
As such, there is no centralized application procedure in the UAE. This is why the admission procedure can be different for the different fields of study. Students can either submit the applications online or can reach out to the universities individually for confirmation of the admission process.
All the universities or colleges will require an application fee at the time of applying. In order to pay the application fee, it is advised to first check with the colleges about the amount of the application fee. The fee amount will differ as per the course and college to which students have to take admitted. Keep in mind that the application fee is not as same as the tuition fee. It is a type of processing fee for the application. The tuition fee, on the other hand, has to be paid upon receiving the confirmation letter.
The basic steps to complete the application process at UAE universities are given below:
- Search for the courses and colleges in which admission has to be taken
- Next, finalize the list of universities and courses
- Appear for the entrance exams like IELTS or TOEFL or PTE
- Keep the documents like SOP, LOR, and academic transcripts ready
- Next, send all the required documents to the university with an application fee
- Then, wait for the acceptance admission intimation
- Once accepted at the university, apply for a student visa
UAE is becoming a popular study-abroad destination for Indian students. The academic year in UAE schools runs from September to June with a winter break in December and a spring break in March. As such, no centralized application system exists in the UAE and because of this, the admission procedure can be different for different program levels.
Students who want to study in the UAE should reach out to their desired universities and ask about the requirements for the specific courses.
How is the life of Indian Students in UAE?
According to recent reports, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosts the largest population of Indian students. The main reason international students live in the UAE is that their parents are working there. Around 219,000 Indian students were enrolled in UAE higher education institutes. According to the Embassy of India, the Indian expatriate community of 3.5 million is reportedly the largest ethnic community in the UAE. This roughly constitutes 30% of the country’s population.
Around 15% of the diaspora is in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the rest in the 6 Northern Emirates including Dubai. Among the Indian states, Kerala is the most represented, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Indians from the Northern States also form a significant portion of the UAE Indian population.
The International English Language Testing Systems (IELTS), Pearson Test of English (PTE), and Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) are all standardized language exams that are required to be taken to take admission into the universities in UAE. These tests follow different formats, result bands, and structures. These tests are different in nature but many universities ask for only one test result. So, it is up to the student to decide in which exam he/she wants to appear.
Repetition of exams: IELTS can be taken as many times as a student wishes. TOEFL can also be retaken as many times as a student wants, however, it cannot be re-taken more than once in 12 days. PTE can be taken as many times as a student wants.
Fee: The standard fee for these exams is INR 16,250 for IELTS, INR 16,036 (US $195) for TOEFL, and INR 15,900 for PTE.
Time to apply: If students are aiming for the September intake, then they should appear for these exams by November (of the previous year) so that they can apply before the first deadline. The universities specify which exam results they accept. However, if they give a choice, then the decision depends on the students. The time required to prepare for these language exams like IELTS / PTE / TOEFL would solely depend on the student’s level of English language proficiency. Ideally, 2-4 months of preparation time is needed before appearing for these exams.
GMAT: It is a test that is taken to get admission into a graduate management program like MBA. GMAT is a computer-adaptive test that evaluates the analytical writing, quantitative, verbal and reading skills of the test takers in standard written English.
GRE: The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is one of the most popular graduate admission tests for candidates who want to study MS or Graduate studies abroad.
SAT: The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) evaluates literacy and writing skills that are required for academic success in college. This test has been developed to evaluate the written, verbal and mathematical skills of the test takers. It is typically taken by high school students to take admission into UG courses.
Average Scores: To take admission to the UAE universities, the average GMAT score required is around 650 and the GRE score is 320.
It is important to note that these average scores are just for reference purposes and the actual scores can differ course-wise from university to university
The cost of living is quite high in the UAE. So, on average, the cost of living for international students is estimated to be 35,000 AED per year. Note that the cost of living will be dependent on where a student is residing in the UAE and how much he/she socializes. The cost of living in the UAE is dependent on the following factors:
Cost of Studying in UAE
The tuition fee at UAE universities varies according to different universities, courses, and the city. The average tuition fee in the UAE might be around Rs 15.28 lakh per year for an undergraduate course. And, if a student is thinking to apply for a postgraduate course, then the average tuition fee will be around Rs 14.78 lakhs per year.
Note: The average tuition for undergraduate courses (1st year) is based on 35 B.E. / B.Tech courses in UAE
Note: The average tuition fee for PG courses (1st year) is based on 28 MS courses in UAE
The World Index of Healthcare Innovation (as of 2022) places UAE’s healthcare at the 19th position and the country has advanced healthcare facilities. As an international student, you need health insurance to study in the UAE. Health insurance would give international students access to medical care at private hospitals and consultation with private health specialists. The levels of health insurance in the UAE are basic and premium. Basic plans include inpatient treatment for an emergency or health condition, and the medium cover policy will cover outpatient treatment.
Scholarships to Study in UAE
Various top-class institutions in UAE are situated in Dubai. Once the students have decided to study in Dubai, funds are another thing that a student has to pay attention to. There are numerous scholarship options available for Indian students who want to study in Dubai. Before applying for scholarships to study in UAE, make sure to check the eligibility requirements and apply before the deadline. Check the list of scholarships given below:
- Outstanding Academic Excellence Scholarships
- Scholarships for Undergraduate Programmes at BITS Pilani, Dubai
- International Student Tuition Scholarship
- Multicultural Student Scholarship
- Master Research Teaching Scholarship
It is important to note that unsecured education loans are not necessarily accommodated by financial institutions for students who want to study in the UAE. Hence, in this case, Government banks are the source who offer secured education loans to study in the UAE.
Sometimes the universities in the UAE also provide loans. So, in order to inquire about the student loan, it is advised to contact the respective department of your university. There are some private banks too that provide personal education loans to students.
Banks that provide student loans in the UAE
- RAK Bank
- Emirates NBD
- Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB)
- Dubai Islamic Bank
- Union National Bank
- National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Eligibility Criteria to Apply for Loan
- The student’s academic profile must be excellent
- The value of the collateral being pledged as security for a master’s education loan should be higher or at least equal to the actual education loan requirements
- Those who have a strong financial background must be named as co-applicants for an education loan for a master’s only
- For students who are willing to fund their higher study courses in the Middle East, there are some other rules and regulations. For example, an SBI education loan needs students to take a country deviation to be able to fund their courses in such countries
Documents required to get a student loan in the UAE
- A copy of a valid passport
- A valid residence visa
- Bank statement of at least 3-6 months
- A copy of the id card from the university
- A trade license (if you are self-employed)
- A security cheque with 120% of the loan amount
Student Visa for UAE
A student who wants to study in a university or college in the UAE needs a student visa. In order to apply for a student visa, a student must be at least 18 years of age.
Requirements of a Student’s Visa
To apply for a freshman student’s visa, the applicants must get an admission letter from the university from where they are studying at. Some of the other requirements are:
- Passing a medical fitness test
- A visa sponsor, either a parent or relative or the university itself
- Approval of the relevant General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs
Who can provide a student visa in the UAE? A student’s visa in the UAE can be secured either by residents sponsoring their children or by one of the accredited universities/colleges in the UAE. Visa authorities in the UAE represented by the relevant General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in each emirate process the Visa applications.
Validity of a student visa in the UAE: Presently, a student visa in the UAE is given for one year. It is renewable for a similar period upon official proof of continuation of a study issued from the higher education institutions in the UAE where a student is admitted.
How can universities secure a visa for their students?
Accredited colleges and universities in the UAE can secure a visa for international students. Students are required to refer to the terms and conditions listed in each university and college to know the specific requirements for admission and the visa process. Note that admission to one of the UAE universities does not guarantee that a visa will be issued.
What is UAE Student Residence Permit: From October 2018, students who have graduated from their secondary schools or universities or completed 18 years of age are granted a one-year residence visa. It can be renewed for another year from the graduation date or on completing 18 years. The UAE student visa will cost AED 1,000 to 3,000 for the first year of the issue. The UAE student residence visa fees vary based on academic institution.
What is a long-term visa for outstanding students?
In 2018, the UAE government approved a decision to grant a 5-year visa to outstanding students. The eligibility conditions for a 5-year visa are:
- School students must graduate with at least 95% from secondary schools, whether private or public
- University students must graduate with a distinctive GPA of a minimum of 3.75 from universities within and outside the country
Where to Apply for a UAE visa?
Students can apply for a student visa through the website of the Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship (ICA), the e-channel for residency and citizenship. Also, students can apply for a student visa to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) of the individual emirate. The ICA offers only online channels, while GDRFA offers both; offline and online channels.
- The eChannels portals: Through the eChannels portal, companies and individuals registered in the UAE can apply for a new visa or visa renewal. The e-visa can be used at the entry port in the UAE without the need to put the original visa in the entry port before the arrival of the sponsor
- Website of GDRFA: Students can also apply online through the websites of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Dubai
- Mobile Apps: Students can also apply for UAE residence permit and residence visa through the ICA UAE e-channels for Apple and Android, Dubai Now on Google Play and App Store
- Typing centres: The offline visa application can be done through licensed typing centres where the visa application is processed and typed through the GDRFA of the respective emirate.
- Amer centres: Dubai Government demands that all entry permit and visa transactions should be carried out through its Amer centres.
Residence for family members of international students
In January 2021, the UAE Cabinet approved a resolution for foreign students studying at the UAE’s universities to invite their family members to the UAE, until they can afford suitable housing.
Pre Departure List
- Book the aeroplane tickets
- Buy travel and health insurance
- Look for accommodation in the UAE
- Check baggage and customs limitations
- Clear all the paperwork with the previous educational institute
Arrange your documents in an orderly manner and make photocopies of the documents for further use. Some of the documents that are required are:
- Airline tickets
- Travel insurance certificate
- Important addresses and phone numbers
- Letters of acceptance
- A bank statement showing proof of funds
- Prescriptions for medicine (in case you are carrying them)
- Medical and immunization records
- Traveller’s cheques (if applicable)
- Academic transcripts
Homesickness is a common issue faced by international students when they settle abroad for studies. It can happen to any student, particularly at the starting his / her academic year. However, a good thing is that, just like all the temporary things in life, this phase also passes. If at times you feel lonely or sad, you can distract yourself by doing the activities you like or you can share your feelings with your friends. You can also contact any counsellor for this matter.
Homesickness may get worse if you talk at your home frequently. However, it can mellow down too if you talk with your loved ones. There is no hard and bound rule to overcome this feeling, as every person has his / her own different ways to cope with homesickness. Instead of dwelling on this feeling, go out and make new friends, check out your surroundings, try to learn the local language, etc.
What to do in the first few weeks after arriving in the UAE?
The first few weeks after coming to a new place will be a busy time for new international students as they will be learning about the campus and academic term. During this time, it is advised to know about your university in abundance. By this, we mean:
- Explore the campus and note down the areas where you have to go for registering for a program, the main office, specific classrooms, get the meals etc
- Join the international student club
- Get to know the workshops and learning resources that are available for international students
- One can use the fitness facilities available on campus or browse the books in the library
Learn Basic Cooking
Cooking for yourself will save a lot of money and energy. At times, when you do not feel like going out to eat outside, make a home-cooked meal on your own. On top of this, by learning this basic skill, you can prepare a snack for yourself between the self-study sessions.
Post-Graduation Work Permit in UAE
According to the UAE Labour Law, it is illegal for a person to work in the UAE without a valid work permit as issued according to the procedures set out by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. Children below the age of 15 are not permitted to be employed in the UAE.
The Golden Visa is a long-term residence visa that allows foreign students to live and work or study in the UAE. High-performing students in the UAE’s secondary schools and outstanding graduates from the UAE’s universities are eligible to get this Golden Visa.
Many universities in the UAE offer on-campus placement opportunities to students. Also, the majority of the universities in the UAE have a cell named Career Services Center. The career services department provides career awareness, personality development, and cues on how to prepare for the interviews, internship opportunities, and job placements who register in this cell.
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