(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The demand for higher education in Dubai could be on the rise, but the number of foreign universities opening up in Dubai's education freezones has slowed down.
No new universities have opened up in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) this year, as existing universities are looking at new ways to improve student numbers.
"Even today there is a huge demand for higher education courses," says Dr Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of TECOM Investments' Education Cluster.
With 48 private schools in Dubai offering programmes to more than 207,500 students, the potential for higher education continues to lure investors. At last count, more than 20,000 students had opted for higher education in universities based in DIAC. This figure is expected to rise in the coming years, as more students from the Middle East region will look to Dubai as an education destination.
While the demand looks set, not all new universities applying for a license to operate in Dubai are given a nod. The selection criterion is tough, as universities need to meet quality guidelines.
Dr Kazim says, "In addition to a strict application criteria, there exists a long gestation period from the time of application to the physical establishment of an institution. We follow a meticulous selection process while reviewing applications and ensure education standards of branches at DIAC match those of the parent university."
Since 2006, only 17 new universities have been accepted into DIAC from more than 178 applications.
"The Education Cluster consistently endeavours to attract universities that offer programmes which meet the diverse needs of the market and build a skilled and sustainable workforce that contributes to the growth of various sectors of the economy. In addition, we seek to attract institutions which deliver programmes that are not already offered here," explains Dr Ayoub.
The emphasis clearly lies on giving students the choice which did not exist until a decade ago. New courses are announced regularly as more than 400 programmes are already on offer.
"Not only does this provide them the opportunity to opt for a path that best suits their career aspirations but also significantly contributes to developing talent in sectors that play a pivotal role in the economy," adds Dr Kazim.
Programmes in nano-technology, water engineering, aerospace, nuclear science and psychology have been developed as part of this purpose. The big challenge however remains in finding students for niche courses.
Enrolments have been on the rise this year as universities reported an increase in student intake. BITS Pilani Dubai Campus recorded an all-time high with double the number of applications received for its engineering programmes.
"The number of applications increased by as much as 100 per cent compared to last year. The total applications received online this year were 1,645 as compared to 817 last year," said Prof Dr RK Mittal, Director, BITS Pilani, Dubai Campus.
Private universities in Dubai will no doubt continue to benefit from the growing need for higher education, as more students will choose to stay back after school. The question remains whether more universities will be allowed to open-up in Dubai.