Dubai continues to cement its position as a higher education hub for both Indian and global universities

Why prominent Indian and global universities continue to set up base in Dubai, paving the way for a future driven by knowledge and innovation


By Sindhu V Kashyap

In recent years, the landscape of higher education has witnessed a notable shift, with the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia traditionally being the top destinations for students worldwide. Surprisingly, in the recent past, a new city has been making significant strides as an educational destination - Dubai.

Between 2021 and 2022, over 164,000 Indian students alone flocked to Dubai to pursue their educational aspirations. While the sheer number of institutions in Dubai is not to be compared with a larger destination like the US, Dubai is steadily gaining popularity not only among students but also attracting premier educational establishments.


Among the institutions already established in Dubai are the University of Birmingham, Middlesex University of Dubai, alongside several Indian universities like SP Jain and BITS Pilani, which have had a presence there for years.

The Indian government demonstrated its commitment to expanding the global presence of the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) by setting up a committee last year to explore opportunities abroad.

Moreover, in 2021, the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for IIT was conducted in 17 cities outside India, including six cities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region: Dubai, Doha, Muscat, Riyadh, Sharjah, and Kuwait.

Even the prestigious IIMs (Indian Institute Of Management) aren’t far behind. In May this year, IIM Rohtak co-hosted an international conference with the Academy for Global Business Advancement (AGBA) in Dubai. While the discussion is still in its early days, the university aims to establish a presence in Dubai, offering blended courses for professionals across the GCC region from Dubai.

IIM Rohtak aims to offer blended courses in management from January next year.

Sachin Bharti, founder & CEO of the Dubai-based education startup Knowledge Planet, shed light on Dubai's allure as an educational destination: "Dubai has a very strong Indian diaspora, and while they have been in Dubai for several years now, they are also strongly connected to the Indian education system and living system, thanks to the proximity, as compared to the US and Canada."

Knowledge Planet, with 13 branches across the UAE and plans to expand further, helps students in the GCC prepare for leading examinations like the IIT-JEE, NEET, SAT and others.

He further emphasised that the UAE has been an extended market for Indian companies across sectors, including education, due to the higher income of non-resident Indians (NRIs) residing in the region.

The UAE boasts more than 30 international branch campuses, representing the highest concentration of such campuses worldwide. Bharti praised Dubai's robust regulatory framework and its commitment to providing excellent educational facilities, making it an attractive destination for institutions seeking global reach.


The strategic collaborations between international and regional institutions enhance the competitiveness and relevance of the education system in the region. Consequently, this fosters an increase in the student pool, leading to positive impacts on the education sector and the overall economy.

Ajay Shukla, Managing Director of Global Study, Middle East, and India, an educational consultancy, noted the growing trend of trans-nationalisation in higher education, with students increasingly opting for study abroad programs. He emphasised the importance of international presence for universities and praised the UAE for hosting a considerable number of international institutions to cater to its diverse expat population.

While the presence of global players in Dubai may pose a challenge to Indian universities, it also brings valuable international visibility to these educational institutes.

Bharti pointed out that while some students might still prefer regions like the US and Canada, the IITs in the UAE open doors for a significant number of students within the UAE and even from India. The UAE itself hosts approximately over a lakh (100,000) students each year.

Shukla mentioned that another driving factor for Indian students looking to study in the UAE is the limited availability of seats in their home markets.

Dubai becomes an attractive option due to its proximity, safety, quality of life, and unparalleled exposure to international experiences. Moreover, as Dubai continues to grow as a tech, startup and business hub in the Middle East, career opportunities for students in this region also present a bright future.

With not only Indian premier universities but also international institutions offering diverse courses and exposure, Dubai solidifies its position as a strong education hub. Additionally, with a growing demand for universities offering dual-country and dual-city education, Dubai's status as a gateway for various industries further enhances its appeal as the perfect educational destination.

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