Higher Education in the UAE – Public Universities


The UAE has established an excellent and diversified system of higher education in a very short period. United Arab Emirates University, founded in 1976, led higher education in the UAE. Since then, the UAE has witnessed an increase in establishing public and private higher educational institutes and a continuous improvement in qualitative performance of existing institutes.

Ministry of Education/Higher Education Affairs (known previously as Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research) set a strategic plan aiming to continue maintaining higher education in the leading position.

Regulating authorities of higher education

Following the UAE Cabinet’s reshuffle in 2016, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MoHESR) was merged into Ministry of Education with two Ministers of State in support. Accordingly, the present Ministry of Education oversees the general planning of higher education and scientific research in the UAE. The ministry is responsible for preparing draft laws for the establishment of federal governmental institutes of higher education and scientific research, as well as, licensing and accrediting private institutes of higher education.

The Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) is responsible for conducting a programme of licensure of institutions of higher education and accreditation of each of their academic programmes in the UAE. Through licensure of colleges and universities and accreditation of individual programmes, the Commission strives to assure high-quality education, consistent with international standards. The Commission is a member of the International Network for Accreditation and serves these institutes as well as students, citizens and residents of regional countries.

In addition, MoE established National Authority for Scientific Research in 2008, to assist in the knowledge industry and to support innovation through the participation of institutes of higher education in the UAE. To ensure a generation of national researchers, the ministry aims to develop a national system of innovation in a knowledge-based economy in creating a strong base for research in higher educational institutes.

In Abu Dhabi, Department of Education and Knowledge, earlier known as Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) operates at the emirate level. It can establish academic institutes and educational bodies in Abu Dhabi, in co-ordination with MoE and with approval from the Executive Council.

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