The Dubai Academic City campus of Heriot-Watt University, which got a 5-star rating along with the University of Manchester Worldwide and London Business School. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The first-ever quality ratings of 17 out of 25 international university branch campuses in Dubai were revealed on Wednesday, with no university achieving the top “5-star-plus” rating.

Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) published results of the first annual cycle of the ‘Higher Education Classification’ on its website,, on Wednesday.

Overall results

Three institutions achieved a 5-star rating, eight institutions achieved 4-star, three institutions received 3-star, two achieved 2-star rating and one received 1-star.

The first cycle covered 282 programmes studied by 16,517 students (51.5 per cent of students enrolled in international branch campuses in Dubai).

Universities are now evaluated on eight quality indicators and awarded an overall star-rating, ranging from 1 to 5+ stars, depending on the number of points achieved in the evaluation.

The overall score is based on individual indicators — allowing students to match their interests with education providers that are strong in topics that interest them.

The Higher Education Classification has been developed by QS Stars in collaboration with KHDA, and aligned with the QS Stars methodology, used by many countries and education providers around the world.

Improving transparency

On Wednesday, universities told Gulf News the move will help students and parents choose universities based on particular strengths, such as diversity on campus or student exchange programmes.

The system will also aid universities attract students based on their ratings and benchmark themselves against UAE education targets and standards, which have been built into the classification — making it easier for universities to identify any area they are falling short of.

Randa Bessiso, Director — Middle East, The University of Manchester (5-star), said: “The new rankings are a sign of the importance of the higher education sector to Dubai, and the determination of the regulator and government to measure and assure the quality of the providers that are licensed to operate here.”

She added: “This will help improve transparency and help build trust and confidence in the universities here. It will also help improve the performance of the sector, build on Dubai’s reputation and help attract more high quality higher education providers to the sector, which is an important contributor to Dubai and its vision for the future.”

Bessiso, is also chair of the UAE-UK Business Council’s Higher Education Group.

Regular evaluations

Quality checks on foreign universities in Dubai, based on annual evaluations by authorities, was in order, said Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Director, Middlesex University Dubai (4-star).

“We feel that this initiative was needed and we truly welcome the move developed by the KHDA in consultation with QS, and we believe that it will provide prospective students with guidelines to help make their choice. There are also some criteria identified as part of the Dubai Education Policy Framework, like Well Being and Social Responsibility and Inclusiveness, which supports the UAE and Dubai government’s vision in these areas,” Dr Fernandes added.

‘Considerable debate’

With a diverse foreign university profile in Dubai, the evaluation process also raised “interesting” questions on comparing them, said Dr Kevin Dunseath, regional director MENA of City, University of London (4-star) and head of its Dubai Centre.

“The evaluation process was interesting. It led to considerable debate about whether and how the quality of higher education institutions with significantly different models and widely varying missions can be realistically and usefully compared with one another,” Dr Dunseath added.

Professor Ammar Kaka, Provost, Heriot-Watt University Dubai (5-star), said: “Prospective students and their parents often look to KHDA rankings for guidance when they are researching universities, so it is truly an accolade for us.”

Global perspective

Out of the 17 universities rated, eight are British, three Indian, three Australian, one French, one Pakistani and one Iranian.

By offering students an international outlook, universities with branch campuses in Dubai can appeal to a wider profile of learners, said Dr Vajahat Hussain, CEO of Amity University (4-star) in Dubai.

“As an international university group, we ensure that all of our courses have a global perspective and offer a specialised BBA and MBA programmes which offer students to study in London and New York as well as in Dubai,” Dr Hussain said.

Student well-being

Professor Christopher Abraham, CEO — Dubai campus, S P Jain School of Global Management (4-star), also said diversity of curricula — as well as of students and faculty — was a strength.

“We lay a lot of emphasis on internationalisation, on diversity — we have 35 nationalities on campus … Student wellness is another area of focus for us; it’s not just academics,” Professor Abraham added.

Student “well-being” is one of the eight quality indicators evaluated in the ratings system.

Enhancing quality

Ultimately, the ratings will lift university standards even higher in Dubai, said Professor Dr R.N Saha, Director, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (Bits) Pilani, Dubai Campus (4-star).

“This initiative to rank higher education institutions is a very important step to enhance the quality of higher education in Dubai. BITS Pilani always tries to offer excellent higher education to create future quality technical and administrative manpower,” said Professor Dr R.N Saha, Director, BITS Pilani, Dubai campus.

5 stars

  • University of Manchester Worldwide
  • London Business School
  • Heriot-Watt University

4 stars

  • S.P. Jain School of Global Management
  • Amity University Dubai
  • Manipal University
  • Hult International Business School
  • City University of London
  • Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani (Bits Pilani)
  • University of Bradford
  • Middlesex University Dubai

3 stars

  • SAE Institute
  • University of Exeter
  • Murdoch University, Dubai

2 stars

  • ESMOD French Fashion Institute
  • Islamic Azad University

1 star

  • Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology

What are the eight quality indicators?

  • Teaching
  • Employability
  • Research
  • Internationalisation
  • Facilities
  • Overall Programme Strength
  • Well-being
  • Social Responsibility and Inclusiveness

Points-based ratings

100 points: 1-star

250 points: 2-star

400 points: 3-star

550 points: 4-star

700 points: 5-star