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26 January, 2021

Dubai universities expect influx of foreign students after family sponsorship move

The Cabinet announced new visa rules on Sunday to encourage more international students to apply for degree courses in the UAE

University leaders said a move to allow international students to sponsor their families for the duration of their studies would prompt a rise in enrolments in the UAE.

On Sunday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, said foreign students would be permitted to bring relatives to the country with them “whenever they have the financial means” to do so.

The UAE Cabinet directive is set to encourage more learners to make the Emirates their chosen destination for undergraduate and postgraduate courses – and give them the incentive to lay down roots in the country long after they finish their academic journey.

Higher education chiefs said the decision would help students plan their futures.

Professor Ammar Kaka, provost of Heriot-Watt University Dubai, said families coming in would seek employment, possibly invest in property and stimulate economic growth, which would be critical for post-pandemic recovery.

“This move will encourage more and more foreign students to come here to study in the UAE,” Professor Kaka said.

“Students and their families can now plan a long-term future here in the UAE and one that goes beyond just the duration of their study.”

Heriot-Watt University Dubai has about 4,000 students with 105 nationalities represented, with many from Africa or the Middle East.

The decision to allow foreign students to sponsor families is the latest in a series of measures aimed at increasing international enrolment in the UAE.

In November, the Emirates expanded its 10-year golden visa system to high-achieving pupils and students leaving universities with a grade point average of at least 3.8.

Last month, UAE universities joined forces with education authorities to develop online degrees to help attract prospective students from around the globe. But education chiefs believe more work must be done.

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