United Arab Emirates officials hope that a new visa scheme for foreign students could help to retain international talent in the region, as well as encourage a series of new branch campuses to open in Dubai’s academic quarter.
The new visa policy grants a five-year residency for all students, up from the current one-year allowance, increasing to 10 years for the most academically gifted applicants. It is the latest of a series of incentives from governing bodies in Dubai to entice students and young professionals to stay in the region after graduating.
Over the past few years, universities in the UAE have made increasing efforts to build on their international student numbers by offering scholarships and student accommodation deals.
At about 26,000, international student figures are already proportionately high in the UAE. At the American University of Sharjah, for example, non-nationals make up 84 per cent of the student population.
But the region faces a brain drain of talent, with the majority of international students returning home after a short period of time.
Under the new policy, students within the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) can obtain part-time work permits for employment at one of the 4,500 companies in Dubai’s Creative Cluster.
Mohamad Abdullah, managing director of DIAC, the move could bring about several changes to higher education in the UAE, including new international branch campuses.
“With the volume we have in terms of universities and students numbers at DIAC, it has become a destination and a hub for higher education,” he told the Khaleej Times. “With that sort of pace and with the support of this new visa policy, it will attract a lot of foreign investments in higher education.”
Decision-makers would, however, remain selective when it comes to allowing institutions to set up new branches in the city, he added.