Types of institutions that offer master’s programs in the UAE

If you are a prospective master’s student looking for a master’s program in the UAE, it’s very important to look into the different options. Maryke gives a breakdown of the different types of master’s degrees in the UAE:

  • Local universities. These are universities that were started locally and are accredited by the UAE Ministry of Education. The faculty will be fairly international, but most will be from within the region. This type of master’s degree is recognized locally; some might have international accreditation. Examples of local universities in the UAE include Zayed University, the American University in Dubai (AUD), and Al Ghurair University (AGU).
  • Institutions with international campuses. Universities that have international campuses in the UAE offer a very similar experience to the home institution (in, for example, the US or the UK). You can expect the services, faculty, and access to alumni to be fairly similar. Examples of universities with international campuses in the UAE include Hult International Business School and INSEAD.
  • Universities with an international office. This means the program is housed within an office facility or separate building, but the experience is quite localized so you might not have all the access to the “mother campus” as you would if they had a full-fledged International campus in the UAE. IE Business School is an example of a university with an international office in the UAE.

It’s also crucial to familiarize yourself with the types of accreditations in the region. If you want a degree that is recognized locally and can lead you to a Ph.D. degree, your program needs to be accredited by the UAE Ministry of Education. If you’re thinking about an international career, some other accreditation bodies might be more important to you, but it’s good to do your homework.

Benefits of studying in the UAE

“I love the UAE so I’m obviously biased,” Maryke admits. (05:20) She lists a few key advantages of pursuing a master’s program in the UAE.

First, “it’s very quick, it’s very entrepreneurial, so you have access to programs that are new and fresh,” Maryke explains. (05:34) A lot of universities are growing within the region, adding new programs that cover the latest trends in their industries. “It was really exciting when I got here to see how fast things happen and how adaptable they are to what the market needs,” Maryke tells us. (01:47)

Second, industry collaboration between academia and business is exceptionally strong. “Because the economy is still fairly young, it’s this sort of sense of co-creation that really means that people want to collaborate,” Maryke says. “A lot of start-ups [and] a lot of universities have incubators [and] innovation centers that have ties both in academia and in business.” (06:04)

Third, the UAE is diverse and multicultural. Not only will your classmates be from all around the world, but so will your instructors. Maryke says, “Being in contact with faculty members from different world regions naturally means that you get so much more. It “brings a very interesting dynamic and different perspectives into class.” (06:51) Case studies, for example, are from across the globe, instead of skewing towards one demographic or region.

Challenges of studying in the UAE

Some of the challenges of studying in the UAE include understanding the higher education landscape in the region, finding a job at a local company, and remaining in the UAE post-graduation.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s super important to understand the types of degrees and accreditations available in the region. “It is unfortunate that…there are still some providers who might pose themselves as offering official degrees, when in actual fact it’s not,” Maryke says. “So really making sure that you know what you’re letting yourself in for is very important.” (07:26)

Another (minor) challenge is finding a job at a local company if you do not speak the local language. However, Maryke says that this is a very isolated case and is usually specific to the company or industry. In general, companies in the UAE are very international, so you should be able to find a job without speaking the local language(s).

Finally, being able to stay in the UAE post-graduation in terms of visas might be challenging. Nevertheless, more and more start-ups and innovation centers are working with the government to provide students with work visas. Maryke explains, “There’s been a lot done to try and make it as easy as possible for students to stay.” (09:11) Because of the smaller class sizes at many universities in the UAE, students also receive personalized attention from career services and other student support services, ensuring a successful post-grad career in the region.

So, you want to do your master’s in the UAE? What now?

If you’re interested in master’s programs in the UAE, Maryke’s number one piece of advice is to reach out and speak to people.

“Ask your questions and ask them wisely,” she recommends. “I absolutely advise every student to look into speaking to current students [and] alumni, and if possible, visit the campus and/or visit the office to get a sense of the look and feel of the program.” (13:31)

A master’s program in the UAE can boost your international career, but like any other part of the world, it comes with a unique set of challenges. It’s up to you to do your research, figure out what you want to get out of your master’s degree, and ask questions.