Dubai: ready to teach the world

High standards, a culture of innovation and stellar growth – all reasons for students and operators to explore Dubai’s educational potential, says Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the emirate’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA)

Dubai is becoming a hub for quality international higher education and schools. What have been the key drivers for this?

Dubai is home to 26 higher education institutions with more than 26,000 students enrolled in programmes. With Dubai Expo 2020 in sight, we are seeing a growing mix of skilled professionals coming to Dubai specifically to study and access work opportunities that will build and grow their careers.

Effective quality assurance coupled with Dubai’s position as an attractive destination has ensured Dubai’s success as a hub for international higher education. The qualifications and programmes offered by higher education providers support our knowledge economy needs and ensure a supply of well-trained graduates who are ready to enter the workforce. KHDA has also set up the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) – made up of international quality assurance experts – to oversee the quality of higher education offered by education providers in Dubai’s free zones. This emphasis on quality higher education has attracted students who enjoy the international exposure available in Dubai.

In what ways do Dubai’s strengths as an innovative and multicultural city benefit its learning environment?

Dubai is at the forefront of creating the future, with a real emphasis on driving change. The Government of Dubai recently launched a US$270m Future Accelerators programme designed to position Dubai as an innovation hub. The programme allows public and private sector companies to work together and find solutions to real-life challenges. To be in such a setting, where inspiring leadership and pioneering ideas come together is a real game changer. Yes – we have tall buildings and big malls around us, but when you look at what is behind all of this, it is a clear vision for the future. A belief that nothing is impossible and you can achieve anything. The diversity of Dubai benefits everyone, and students in Dubai experience this first-hand.

In what ways will the agreement between KHDA and the CSCSE (Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange) provide increased learning opportunities in Dubai for Chinese students?

Dubai has one of the most diverse education systems in the world and parents and students have the ability to choose from a wide offering of private schools here. The global exposure also benefits students who gain better English language skills. Dubai also provides extensive higher education opportunities allowing students to continue their studies or go back to China with a very well rounded view of the world.

KHDA has put a major focus on happy learning and student wellbeing. Tell us more about the philosophy behind this and how it is implemented in the emirate’s educational establishments.

'Happiness is understood across all cultures – and certainly valued by both Arabic and Chinese cultures. It’s simple, makes sense, and leads to better learning'

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General, Knowledge and Human Development Authority

Happiness is understood across all cultures – and certainly valued by both Arabic and Chinese cultures. It’s simple, makes sense, and leads to better learning. Over the years, education has done a great job of training the mind. As we look to the future, we must also address the needs of students’ hearts; to give children the tools they need to be emotionally and socially happy. By working together with our community to talk about and share happiness, we hope that the concept of education will come to include wellbeing as well as academic achievement.  

What are the opportunities for investors and education operators looking to open private schools or universities in Dubai? Any specific areas of growth?

Private education in Dubai has seen remarkable growth over the last few years. A record 15 new schools opened in Dubai this year and this reflects very strong investor interest and increasing market capacity. We anticipate further growth in the number of school seats in Dubai – the current capacity utilisation is at 89 per cent – which is very high compared to other countries. Such growth means that investors are looking for more innovative education models to bring to Dubai.

How does the regulatory framework work in Dubai?

As a regulator of private education, we work towards creating an inclusive, transparent and positive regulatory environment that aims to bring out the best from within our community. We work with our community – investors, school, universities, training institutes, parents, educators and students – to ensure access to high-quality education that enables a happy and purpose-driven life.