Study in Dubai

Guide for African Students 2021

Study Abroad in Dubai

Dubai is located in one of the seven United Arab Emirates and is home to professionals from all around the world. It is known for its extravagant architectural projects, including the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Dubai has a famously fast-growing economy and is known for innovation. Of course, the luxury shopping experiences also make it a dream destination for many international students.

burj khalifa from the ground up

Why choose to study in Dubai in 2021?

A regional hub

Thanks to big oil and gas revenues, as well as a long-term, well thought-out growth strategy, Dubai has become the top hub for business in the Middle East and North Africa. It harbors the regional headquarters of the biggest financial institutions in the world and is one of the most visited tourist destinations on the planet.

A modern city

Dubai is one of the most connected  technologically innovative cities on the planet. Project SmartDubai2021 is one example of how Dubai’s government is committed to making the city one of the most integrated cities in the whole world through an extensive plan that is supposed to stop the use of paper in government services by the end of the current year.

An international environment

80% of Dubai’s population is not Emirati. Among those 80%, 150 nationalities from all over the world are represented.  It is not uncommon for you to find people who speak your native tongue, or a place that specializes in your country’s cuisine. This makes Dubai a truly cosmopolitan city where you can meet people from all walks and shapes of life.

World class universities

A significant number of well-known schools from all over the world have opened new campuses in Dubai. Most of these branch campuses offer the same degree that the home university provides.  Among the well-known institutions to have set up in Dubai, we find names like Cass Business School, Duke University, Amity University and Seed partner, Heriot Watt University. 

Perfect your English language skills

English is the main language of instruction used in most universities in Dubai and, with such a multi-national population, English is increasingly the go-to language for communication. As previously mentioned, students will need to provide an English test score, such as IELTS or TOEFL, to prove their language proficiency - students not meeting the direct admission requirements may need an English language program first. 

Access to UK Universities

Dubai can be a stepping stone towards studying in countries such as UK, Australia or USA if you wish. Starting your studies at a branch campus in Dubai will be cheaper and also the student visa process to study in Dubai will be simpler than for established destinations like the UK or USA. The branch campuses in Dubai offer differ opportunities for students to transfer to the main campus with 2+2 being a particularly common option (after 2 years in Dubai, transfer to the main campus in the UK, for example, for the remaining 2 years). This route will save you money compared to spending all 4 years in the UK, for example, and it will also allow you to experience life in two different cultures.

Higher Education system in Dubai

Higher education institutions generally use English as the official language of instruction in Dubai. The government’s intention is to produce world-class education at a more affordable cost. Most universities in Dubai are overseas campuses of institutions from countries such as the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. 

Foundation Year in Dubai

As mentioned above, most universities in Dubai are overseas campuses of institutions who have their main campus elsewhere. Whether you will need a Foundation Year or not will therefore depend on the higher education system followed by your chosen Dubai campus. If you plan to join one of the UK or Australian institutions that have established campuses in Dubai, then most probably you will need to take a one year foundation year course before entry into a bachelor degree programme in Dubai. Some, including Heriot Watt University, offer advanced foundation year programmes. These courses allow academically gifted students to go straight into the second year of the degree course when successfully completed.  If you plan to join a US university’s branch campus, then you are unlikely to need a Foundation Year. However, whether you need to take a Foundation Year or not, due to the different educational systems, you will almost certainly take 4-years in total to gain a Bachelor degree at your chosen university. 

Bachelor Degrees in Dubai

There is a very wide choice of Bachelor's programs to choose from in Dubai. A bachelor degree course typically takes between three to four years to complete. Remember though that, if your program is a 3-year Bachelor, you may well need to take a Foundation Year first, so the overall length of study is likely to be 4-years.  Universities in Dubai set their own entry requirements, but African students must have a high school leavers certificate or an equivalent. The other most crucial requirement is English level. If your native language isn't English, you will be required to take a TOEFL or IELTS test.

Master’s degrees in Dubai

The Master's degrees in Dubai are not any different from other parts of the world. Masters degrees in Dubai are available in MA or MSc. To be accepted to take a master's degree in Dubai, you must have completed a bachelor's degree. Masters degrees are taught on a full-time basis and usually take between one to two years.  Most popular subjects include business administration, architecture, humanities, science, and engineering. As in all other programs around the world, you are required to complete a thesis. There are other post-graduate qualifications available in Dubai like Master of Business Administration (MBA), Executive MBA, and Ph.D.

Online degrees with Dubai universities

Many of the overseas campuses that have set up in Dubai also offer online Master's programs in certain fields of study. Heriot-Watt Dubai, in partnership with its primary campus in Edinburgh, UK, offers 19 online Master’s programs for example. Studying online is a more flexible option. Most students will choose to study part-time  which then allows them to fit studies in around their full-time job. Students can therefore continue to progress their professional career while also upgrading their academic qualifications. Studying part-time will of course increase the duration of study - taking a part-time Master’s program could take 4 - 8 years to complete.

Popular courses at university in Dubai

There are a huge range of degree programmes available at universities in Dubai. Some of the popular options are: 

  • Undergraduate Programs:

    Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Robotics and Interactive Systems, Chemical Engineering, Business Management, Computer Science, Finance, Economics, Mechanical Engineering and Psychology

  • Postgraduate Programs:

    Mechanical Engineering, Renewable Energy Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Software Engineering, Civil Engineering, Computer Science, International Business, International Commercial Law, Business Management, Global Management, Finance, Human Resource, Marketing and Financial Analytics


Best universities in Dubai

There are around 65 accredited colleges and universities mainly centered around the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC).  Two of the top tertiary education institutions in the Dubai metro area, according to the QS World University rankings 2021, are: the American University of Dubai and Zayed University

British universities in Dubai

There are a number of top UK universities that have expanded to Dubai in recent years, including Seed partner, Heriot Watt University. The degree certificates are awarded from the UK institution and the quality standards meet British standards. There are thousands of graduates from UK universities in Dubai working in top positions around the world in many sectors. 

Some UK universities in Dubai offer international students the option to start their studies in the branch campus in Dubai but to graduate from the main UK campus. Usually this will follow a 2+2 Undergraduate Study Mode. This is when the student completes the first two years of their bachelor’s course in Dubai, then transfers to the UK campus for the final two years. However, some universities, such as Middlesex University Dubai, offer options to transfer to the main campus in the UK after any academic year has been completed (so 1+3, 2+2 or 3+1 are possible). 

For those who enjoy the Dubai lifestyle or who wish to minimise their costs, there is also the option to complete the entire program at the branch campus. Dubai branch campuses have lower tuition fees than their respective UK campus.

Recommended Dubai University for African Students

Seed is proud to represent two well-established British universities offering a wide range of programs in Dubai.

One of the best universities to offer an array of undergraduate and postgraduate programs is Heriot-Watt University. The university has outstanding facilities available to students at their new Dubai campus, which opened in April 2021 in Knowledge Park. It is also the only British university in Dubai that offers a number of specialties in engineering.  You will also find top-class courses in architecture, computing, and other technical subjects at Heriot-Watt University in Dubai. 

Middlesex University has been located in Knowledge Park since its establishment in 2005. It offers a broad range of programs in Business, as well as courses in Law, Fashion Design, Psychology and many more. At graduate level, it also offers some exciting programs in the area of science and technology such as robotics and cybersecurity.

Heriot Watt University Institution Profile


Costs of Studying in Dubai

Tuition fees for International students in Dubai

For international students, fees differ from one university to another and from one program to another. There are no tuition-free universities in Dubai. Tuition fees typically range between 43.000 AED (USD $12,000) and 118.000 AED (USD $32,000). However, there are also many partial scholarships awarded on a merit-basis. If you have strong academic grades, be sure to research scholarship opportunities. Certain programs, such as medicine, are likely to have tuition fees that go beyond the scale mentioned above.  

Student Cost of living in Dubai

Dubai has built up a reputation for its luxury lifestyle - many social media influencers use Dubai as a backdrop to help sell the products they are pushing. However, while Dubai is quite an expensive city to live in, there are ways to economise too. African students coming to Dubai should expect to spend between $750 and $1,500 per month on living costs (housing, food, local transportation, etc.). 

International Student Accommodation

Dubai welcomes international students and the government has invested heavily in the Dubai International Academic City. The accommodation on offer for students is world-class though the flip-side is that accommodation will be your biggest cost (with the exception of tuition fees). One of the most popular student residences is The Myriad (, located in Dubai Academic City. It offers twin, single and premium single rooms with rental costs ranging from 2,000 AED (USD $550 per month) to 3,700 AED (USD$1,000 per month). This premium student residence includes a gym, swimming pool, study rooms, communal kitchens, laundry rooms, high speed wifi and a shuttle bus service to your university campus at no additional cost. Private apartment rentals in Dubai remain a cheaper option and sharing an apartment is likely to reduce your costs to around $300 per month.

Living Expenses while at University in Dubai

On average, an international student needs USD 1200 per month, which includes rent, food, entertainment, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses. However, as we have mentioned above, there are ways to spend less (or more) than this average. 

Scholarships for African students in Dubai

Universities in Dubai offer a number of scholarships to international students. African students are always welcome to apply for such scholarships. Seed Educational Consulting has helped many African Students to benefit from higher education scholarships at institutions all over the world. Our team is well trained in the scholarships offered by our partner universities in Dubai.

What are the requirements to Study in Dubai?

What grades do you need to study in Dubai?

Each university has its own academic requirements. Please send us your academic transcripts for an evaluation.

I have already started university studies in my home country – can I transfer?

The answer to this question will depend on which university in Dubai you apply to. Branches of US universities, for example, will allow credits to be transferred into their program, just as the main campus in the USA would. Just remember though that you will not be able to transfer 100% of your credits.

If, on the other hand, you join a branch of a UK university in Dubai, then credit transfer options are limited to non-existent.


How to Apply

6 Steps for African Students to study abroad in Dubai

Steps to Study Abroad

  • Send us your academic documents and explain to us your future career plans. We will have lots of questions for you, especially financial questions relating to your sponsor and his/her budget, so try to prepare as much documentation as possible.
  • We will review your dossier and then propose colleges or universities to you based on your past academic grades, intended major of study, budget and any personal preferences. In doing so, we will send you links of programs that we feel will be of interest to you.
  • We invite you to carefully review the university links that we send you and to make a choice - it is YOU that will choose the university. Seed Educational Consulting makes recommendations and no more.
  • Seed Educational Consulting will work with you to submit an application to the university or college of your choice.
  • Upon receiving a letter of admission from the chosen institution, we will then work with you on the student visa process. 
  • Once you have your visa we will guide you on the next steps, including reserving accommodation, flights, and so forth.


We advise you to start the process at least 6 months in advance.


Dubai student Visa for African Study Abroad students

The application process for a student visa for Dubai is completed online. UAE law requires that the applicants have a sponsor for their student visa. Usually, this will be a family member. If you can’t find a sponsor, the university will sponsor you.  If the application is successful, students are granted a student resident visa. The visa lasts for one year and is renewable a month before its expiration for the whole duration of your studies. The documents required for African students are
  • Scanned colour copy of your passport.
  • Scanned copy of a recent passport-sized photograph on a white background.
  • An offer letter from the relevant University in Dubai.
  • A bank statement
  • Completed visa application form
  • Student undertaking form
  • A copy of the tuition fee receipt for the current year of the program.
  • A copy of the visa fee receipt for the current year of the program you intend to study.
  • Post-graduate students need to show proof of an undergraduate degree.
In addition to the above requirements, students must undergo a medical test. The test includes a chest x-ray, HIV, Hepatitis B and C, leprosy, tuberculosis, and syphilis. Please note, if you are infected with such diseases, you will be deported except for Syphillis, which can be treated.

Student Visa

Every student who wants to join a university in Dubai must apply for a student visa. A student visa is only valid for one year at a time and can be renewed one month before it expires.
  1. Conditions to be eligible for a Student Route visa
In case you are a native English speaker, you will be required to prove your language skills by taking a TOEFL( Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS Exam. In other cases, different universities offer their English tests for their international students.

Fee for a Dubai Student Visa

The exact cost of the student visa to Dubai depends on whether you opt for the standard or express service. Many universities will also charge their own service fee on top to cover their administrative costs. The student visa will generally cost up to 3000 AED ($820 USD) and it will typically take 7-14 days to obtain.  Most universities will also ask for a refundable deposit of up to AED 3000 ($820 USD). This deposit can be used by the university to cover any visa-related expenses that occur during your period of study - this includes covering the cost of any fines imposed on you by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners. The deposit will be refunded after you have returned home, though any fines or other costs that have been paid by the university during your stay will be deducted from the refund.

Graduate work opportunities for Africans in Dubai

The economy in Dubai is growing very quickly, in particular in the tourism, oil, and trade sectors which are the primary drivers of its economy. After finishing your studies, you will be allowed to look for a job in Dubai.  Many Graduates get employed by multinational companies like Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, Microsoft, or IBM. The most popular industries that employ African graduates include the real estate, engineering and construction sectors. Oil and gas, trade, tourism, logistics, finance, renewable energy, technology, and desalination are also sectors African graduates find jobs. 

Can I work and study in Dubai?

Students in Dubai are allowed to work while studying, but there are rules to be followed. You must have a work permit to work legally in Dubai and a work permit can only be issued from the second year of study. Students working in Dubai cannot have more than one job, and their student visa could be suspended if they violate any laws relating to their work permit. Most companies in Dubai pay African graduates very well, but it is up to you to do some research before submitting your application for a part-time position.