Gearing up for college? Know what to look for in a university


What to look for when searching for a higher education institute in the UAE

The UAE’s diverse population makes it a magnet for university institutes from across the globe.

Combine that with the local institutions across the country and parents and students have a variety of options to choose from.

But while that’s obviously an advantage, it can also cause confusion when it comes to deciding which university to sign up to.

To start with, there are a lot of factors that come into play when choosing an institute.

Students vary from one to another based on circumstances, backgrounds, needs, skills and financial standing – all these, of course, are primary considerations to keep in mind.

The key is to honestly assess your position, expectations and long-term goals as these can help in the decision-making process.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some noteworthy points to consider when hunting for a university.


It all starts here. Keep in mind that you’ll spend years studying your chosen course and will likely devote years working in that field, so it’s important to carefully consider what career you’d like to pursue.

If you’re unsure about what course to take, jot down your interests or what it is that you consider as your dream job.

Some schools offer career counselling to help students figure out their strengths, so you might want to consider that option as well.

For inspiration, check out – a website founded by Cranleigh Abu Dhabi student, Tanishq Kumar – to gain insight into the various professions and what it takes to be successful in each field.

Knowing what course to take will also help determine the type of school that you should be looking at, which can help narrow down your choices and allow you to save time.

There are many university options in the UAE that cater to specific careers and levels ranging from majors, to undergraduate studies and postgraduate degrees.

The good news is that all universities nowadays have websites to make it easy for students to see course listings along with details.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact the school directly so they can guide you and explain more about the courses, including the curriculum and credit requirements needed.


The rising cost of education, not just in the UAE but worldwide, has always been a concern among parents and students.

Tuition fee varies depending on a number of factors – including the types of courses offered, the number of years required to complete the course, location and school ranking.

Determining what your budget is and how much you can realistically allot for tuition is essential even before you start searching. Enquire immediately about the payment terms so you can properly assess your initial budget plan.

You can also try to look at special loan programmes offered by local banks to ease the financial burden. Banks such as ADCB and Mashreq offer education loans under certain conditions.

Make sure, however, to thoroughly read the fine print and ask questions about the terms and payment adjustments to avoid potential problems in the future.

Admission requirements

Aside from an entrance exam, some schools request a personal interview with the student and submission of past school records for reference and to keep on file.

Generally, universities set admissions criteria such as minimum GPA, standardised test scores and prerequisite course requirements.

Ask the school about their requirements beforehand or check the website to know the complete details so that you’ll have a clear idea of what to prepare.

University ranking

While ranking is not the ultimate gauge to judge a university’s capabilities, it’s worth checking out where the school stands.

The fact is some employers are particular with school rankings, preferring to favour candidates from highly ranked universities over others. This in some way can affect your chances to land the job you want in the future.

Bear in mind, too, that rankings are not set in stone and should not be treated as conclusive.

Do your own research and ask students, parents and teachers affiliated with the university to hear first-hand their opinions and experiences.

For reference, and to see the rankings of UAE universities, visit: and


You’ll be spending most of your time on campus so it’s important that it features facilities that you will want to take advantage of.

Take time to check the various facilities offered – from the library, canteen, accommodation, laboratories and learning amenities, to the sport, leisure and recreation infrastructure.

Similarly, check if there are a good number of after-school activities, particularly those that can complement your degree, for you to participate in.

Career assistance

Some universities have a career programme in place to help students prepare in their post graduate journey.

Check if the university you are considering offers services like counselling, internship referrals and resume reviews, interview preparation workshops and job placement assistance.

Abu Dhabi University, for example, has a career development department in place to assist its graduating students.

Also, you might want to find about the university’s job placement rates so you’ll have an idea of how past students in the same course have managed to land jobs after graduation.

Check out these local universities and see if they have courses that fall in line with your interests…

Abu Dhabi University

Founded in 2003, this university with branches in the capital, Al Ain and Dubai, offers undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in law, arts and sciences, business administration, engineering and computer science. The university currently ranks 701 in the best university in the world list according to the QS World Universities. Visit:

United Arab Emirates University

Considered as the oldest university in the country, this Al Ain-based institution has produced a number of local leaders in the private and public sectors. The 41-year-old learning institution has nine colleges: business and commerce, education, engineering, food and agriculture, humanities and social sciences, information technology, law and medicine and health sciences. UAEU is also known for pioneering research and studies across various fields. Visit:

Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research

Presently ranked 401 in the best university list from QS World Universities is this science focused learning institution. The university, also known as KUSTAR, is playing a big role in developing the country’s non-oil industries, with a focus on science and technology. Students can choose from undergraduate and postgraduate degrees like aerospace engineering, biomedical engineering and nuclear engineering. Visit:

Al Ain University of Science and Technology

Since 2004, this university has grown its enrolment composed of local and foreign students. Courses offered include engineering, pharmacy, law, business management, psychology, mass communication and information technology. Visit:

Higher Colleges of Technology

With 17 modern campuses to choose from across the UAE, this is billed as the largest higher education institution in the country. Programmes include computer and information science, health sciences and education, applied communication and business. Visit:

New York University Abu Dhabi

This liberal arts college and research university offers undergraduate degrees from its Saadiyat Island campus. Majors and minors are offered in subjects including anthropology, art history, biology, creative writing, economics, film and new media, natural science and physics. Visit:

Zayed University

This government-sponsored higher education institute offers various bachelors and master degree programmes. Options include business administration, finance, special education, interior design, visual art and judicial studies. Visit:

Paris-Sorbonne University

Bringing the French higher education system to the region, this university trains local and international students to a high standard, offering both master degree and undergraduate programmes. Options include banking and finance, history of art and museum studies, international business law, sociology, physics and applied foreign languages. Visit:

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