Recent reports reveal that a child’s lifetime education in the UAE could cost up to Dh1 million Image Credit: GN Archives

Not a single eagle-eyed parent could have missed the recent news reports revealing a child’s lifetime education in the UAE could cost up to a jaw-dropping Dh1 million. 

Issued by global insurance firm Zurich International Life Limited, it reinforces the fact that getting a first-class education for your child is never cheap. However, the bad news is that it is about to become even more expensive as university fees are on the up. 

“Parents of children born this year are likely to pay fees that are up to four times higher than they are now,” says Damodhar Mata, Authorised Consultant, Nexus Insurance Brokers. “It is important to manage the expectation of children, when it comes to higher education. Parents should have an early and open discussion with their children about money and mentally prepare them to consider affordable higher education options. A good higher education counsellor can help both parents and children select courses of their choice from among global universities, within the available budget.”

Do the maths

So, exactly how much does a university degree cost?

In the UK, for example, you could expect to pay an average of around £11,987 (Dh54,332) per year, at undergraduate level for an international student, with top universities commanding up to £34,800, according to education website Add to this the living expenses, which could fluctuate depending on the country you are in. 

According to, degrees in the US cost between $27,772 (Dh101,994) and $63,119 a year on average, depending on the course and the university in question. “Fees vary hugely, with top colleges charging more for courses,” says James Thomas, Managing Partner, Acuma. 

Sally ElMistikawy, Head of Marketing & Student Recruitment Heriot-Watt University Dubai, says, “The campus undergraduate engineering four-year honours degree costs Dh240,000 in total. Alternatively students can opt for a three-year bachelor’s degree that costs Dh180,000 The undergraduate business, management and finance three-year honours degree currently costs Dh162,000, while the undergraduate fashion three-year bachelor’s degree costs Dh180,000.”

South African national Cindy Smith, whose son studies in Heriot-Watt University Dubai, says, “We hope to see him going to Scotland on campus for his third year and then completing the last year here. Obviously, all this is dependent on finances. We considered fees overseas, however, being an international student, fees are much higher when taking into account living expenses, etc. Due to the fact that he lives at home, it made more sense to us financially to keep him in Dubai.”

The good life

Another parent who chose to send her child to university in Dubai is Christine Hatton from the UK. Her daughter attended Middlesex University and graduated with a degree in International Business. Hatton explains, “She enjoys the lifestyle that Dubai offers and felt that university life in the UK was not for her. The fees were a little cheaper here than in the UK and the average student there fielded the added burden of student loans. Studying in Dubai helped her avoid taking a student loan and the degree she studied was the same being offered in the UK and was also overseen by Middlesex University in the UK. I felt Dubai University to be a good investment.”

Tara Pillay, Managing Partner, Varsity Connections, points out several factors influencing university selection, whichever be the country you may desire. 

“The destination and university that match most of the criteria important to the student including subjects offered, university setting (is it campus or city based?), the budget and more, would be the obvious choice,” she says.

“However, several European countries offer university programmes for free (no tuition fees). An administration fee is charged and living expenses are to be covered by the student. The student might however have to learn the local language. The number of institutes that have programmes delivered in English are limited in Europe but we do see new programmes being added year-on-year.”

Ultimately, like the degree itself, finding the right university might take a bit of work. “Really, it is about doing one’s  research, knowing what is out there and finding that perfect fit,” says Pillay.

Other qualifications

With tuition fees on the rise, not everyone can afford a top university. If this, or grades that are not up to the mark are deterrants to education, there are options. 

“The student’s first option would be to look for universities in their home countries. They can also look at community colleges or smaller colleges instead of branded universities. Research for universities that offer full/partial fee waiver and student loans. Distance learning is also an option,” says Pillay.

For those wishing to stay in Dubai, The National Institute for Vocational Education offers diplomas in business, banking and finance according to their website. Other courses include higher national diplomas in business, computing and jewellery business development.

“However, for something specific and technical you may have to look a little further afield. For example technical/apprenticeship training in carpentry, plumbing and other similar skills is offered in India,” Pillay adds. 

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