Image Credit: Megan Hirons/Gulf News

Dubai: Students awarded degrees from Dubai's free zone universities will now have their qualifications recognised by employers in both private and public sectors.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) briefed universities yesterday on a new law, referred to as Resolution 21, issued by Dubai's Executive Council, concerning higher education institutions based in Dubai free zones.

The new law essentially awards KHDA the power to certify all academic awards issued by educational institutions in the emirate's free zones. These academic awards will be certified by the KHDA and will be recognised in the emirate by both the public and private sector bodies for any purpose.

"This law is a milestone for us saying that this model of branch campuses works and has been working," said Dr Abdullah Al Karam, Director General of KHDA. "This law is something institutions can use to attract more students to Dubai because our initial 2001 vision of becoming a hub for international students between East and West has never changed."

Largest number

In essence the new law, among other things, allows the KHDA to certify the academic awards higher education institutions operating in the free zones issue to students.

The law was passed in July 2011 but was announced to the institutions yesterday in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC).

"The free zones have been an important key in Dubai's economic development and diversification," said Dr Warren Fox, executive director of Higher Education at KHDA. "That concept wisely expanded to higher education and we've attracted these international branch universities of which we have the largest number of anybody else in the world."

The Dubai free zones now host more than 27 international branch campuses across Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV), DIAC, Dubai International Financial Centre and Healthcare City.

Dr Al Karam added there are currently about 16,000 students enrolled in the free zone higher education system and approximately 25,000 students have passed through it since DKV was established in 2003. Dubai will also celebrate 10 years of higher education free zones in October next year.


"The branch campuses have come and developed and now collectively offer close to 400 programmes and essentially these graduates can now participate in Dubai's growth," said Dr Fox. "Before this law many students would gain employment upon graduation but all were not guaranteed it; now they are."