Higher education for expats in UAE

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An ‘expatriate’ is someone who lives in a foreign country for career purposes and intends to return to his/her home country at some point in the future. The life of an expatriate largely revolves around stability, cultural and traditions disparity, income scales, health, affordability etc. Amongst these, education has been a pinning issue- especially higher education among teenagers.


Quality education for expats in uae

The UAE is home to many international schools which address the needs of expatriate learners. Privately held schools provide a promising curriculum which is most preferred by non-nationals. Migration to international borders for education is much initiated due to family or relative connection. For instance, learners choose to travel for education where their family or relative is already based on employment.

Countries like UK, Australia, Canada or USA are most preferred for higher education.

The GCC has however been in focus in the recent times with the increase in the number of higher education options made available for aspirants. Several international colleges and universities are establishing and spreading themselves in the UAE alone. The education market in the UAE is collaborating with different international educational firms as official training partners in the UAE.

Generally, Expatriate families uproot themselves from extended families, old friends, and other key support people from their communities, and what usually remains is a smaller family unit consisting of only parents and children. The result is that family members often depend more on each other to meet their physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs. As expatriate families are often strong and cohesive, offering considerable support and comfort to children, this can make it harder for children to cope with leaving the family home to undertake higher education in another country. Expatriate siblings are often close, and they typically offer more help and support to one another than siblings in families that have never lived abroad. For example, if there 15 students who planned to leave the UAE, 12 specifically mentioned that they would be living with a family member or that they had family living in the same city, region or part of the country where they intended to study. Having family living nearby was clearly important to most students. But then there are parents and children who have made comparisons between American and British Higher Education who would like to undertake their higher education in the US and UK mentioned the advantages of a flexible and broad curriculum and the opportunity to delay choosing a specialization. Several of the students clearly enjoy the expatriate lifestyle and intend to remain international even in their adulthood or to return after their higher education to the Middle East. These students made higher education choices that help them achieve their future plans.


Every student who intended to take their undergraduate degree at an institution outside the UAE mentioned the importance of quality of education and/or the prestige/reputation of Institute. Among the students planning to study in the UK, researching on Universities is something which needs proper data and accuracy when approaching the universities or colleges for admissions So while searching online on the internet you shall find the barometer systems of these Universities which is gauged by the number of researchers and projects of a particular university so on that basis the university gets its ranking or gets listed on the charts of good universities. The Guardian’s ranking was the one mentioned most often. And The Times ranking is widely accepted as the leading undergraduate ranking in the UK.  Also, several students mentioned the attraction of locations or institutions with diverse populations with the absence of university rankings and independently published quality data, each of the students intending to study at a university in the UAE mentioned the value of receiving word of mouth from friends and family who had first-hand experiences of a particular institution before.


Also read MBA from University of Wolverhampton with Westford University College UAE


Overall the study found that the higher education choices of expatriate children were most influenced by their need or desire to return to their home country; to study in the country where they intend to settle permanently; to live with, or be close to, siblings or extended members of their family; to minimize tuition, accommodation and general living costs; and to study in the location where they will feel most comfortable. These are the factors that were mentioned most often in the interviews and is emphasized most by the students. For students leaving the UAE, rankings and institutional reputation were key determinants of choice of institution. Students remaining in the UAE were far more likely to rely on word of mouth from family or friends. It is clear that an internationally mobile lifestyle affects children in many different ways and that the lifestyle also significantly influences their higher education choices.

If you are a parent and looking for a quality higher education for your children in UAE, you can get in touch with our admission counselors and they will guide you further.


Post written by:

Ms. Roopa Zanane

Consultant – Student Recruitment



Disclaimer: The facts and opinions appearing in the article are personal views of the author and not the official statement of Westford

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