Prospective university students in the UAE have traditionally focused their energies on applying for courses in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but increasingly, they are seeing Ras Al Khaimah as a destination for quality, affordable tertiary education.
The emirate now offers a range of public and private options including federally accredited facilities, as well as local institutions and international campuses operating under its free zone structure.
The RAK Medical & Health Sciences University (RAKMHSU) is one of the three Ministry of Education recognised facilities, along with the American University and state-run Higher Colleges of Technology. Since its inception 11 years ago, Sindhu Suresh, Assistant Director of Admissions, Registration and Marketing, RAKMHSU, has seen a huge shift in the emirate’s focus on being a tertiary education hub, driven from the top down.
“His Highness Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, was educated in the US and there has been a lot of emphasis on his part in promoting international education standards here,” she says.
“He’s been responsible for encouraging international partnerships, attracting quality educators and hosting conferences.”
Another option, the University of Bolton, Academic Centre – Ras Al Khaimah is an international provider now entering its tenth year of operation. It’s had six cohorts of students graduate with degrees in areas including engineering, accountancy, business and computing.
Director of Administration, Raj Nambiar agrees that state infrastructure has played its part. “The government has provided continuous support and assistance to the University of Bolton,” he says, citing support from the emirate’s Tourism Development Authority, Academic Zone and RAK Economic Zone (RAKEZ).
Regulations for free zone educational institutions were overhauled earlier this year and conditions tightened to implement further safeguards for students.
“The University of Bolton was the first university to be licensed under the new quality assurance regulations required by the Academic Zone, RAKEZ,” says Nambiar.
Suresh says it’s not difficult to attract high-calibre students and faculty to study and work in Ras Al Khaimah. She adds that RAKMHSU has reached a point where students seek it out because of its reputation.
The lifestyle is also very conducive to the heavy workload of a med student. “They have to put in around 18 hours a day because there are a lot of classes to attend, and clinicals in hospitals. So they don’t waste time commuting, living next to the university,” says Suresh.
Nambiar says his students are also enthusiastic about the benefits of studying in Ras Al Khaimah. He says they typically refer to the quality of faculty, individual attention, up to date curriculum and solid internship programmes as key advantages.
The emirate attracts students from across the UAE, throughout the Gulf region and around the world. For international students, the affordable fee structures make Ras Al Khaimah as a destination an attractive alternative to the US, UK or Australia.
“Besides,” says Suresh, “there are such lovely views of the mountains here!”