ATMs and student numbers rise across the UAE

The network of ATMs criss-crossing tourist hot-spots Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other popular destinations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is obvious testament to the huge strides taken in recent years by the Gulf country’s dynamic and expanding banking industry. However, there’s another sector that has rapidly grown, too, and it’s a success story that’s almost gone unnoticed. The sector in question is education.

A recent report forecasts that the number of ATMs – let’s call them cash machines – across the world is set to rise over the next few years by some 40 percent, up from 2.6 million last year to and estimated 3.7 million by 2018. Much of the growth will be driven by the Middle East and Africa and Asia Pacific regions, says the report.

Meanwhile, the number of students enrolling in UAE universities and other higher educational institutions has risen by 31 percent in the last five years, according to a report issued earlier this year by Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA). The KHDA says that in Dubai alone, student numbers were up 11 percent in 2012.

And there’s more positive news. The UAE is now the fourth most attractive education destination in the world for students looking to pursue their studies abroad. The claim was made in an article in business magazine Gulf Business which cites the findings of a survey carried out by Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and Deloitte.

The survey of 2,400 students and a number of companies across the Middle East, Africa and Asia found that the UAE was recognized particularly for its strength in science, finance, economics and management. The students identified Dubai as likely to be their educational destination of choice while the majority of companies described the city’s position as a centre for higher education as good or excellent.

The article says that according to the corporates surveyed within the study, there were 64 skills in high demand across sectors such as tourism and telecoms. There was potential to address some of the skill gaps identified by creating bespoke academic programmes and collaborating with existing academic partners to offer courses within the UAE or in the students’ home countries.

DIAC has been quick to respond to the findings, announcing in August that its universities will be increasing the number of courses on offer by more than 10 percent for the 2013/14 academic year. In direct response to industry demand, universities including Amity, Heriot-Watt and IMT will add an additional 35 degrees in tourism and hospitality, engineering and accounting to their existing portfolio, bringing the total number of degrees to 355. Of the new courses, 11 will be undergraduate, 17 postgraduate and 7 PHD programmes.

News of the new programmes follows a record year at DIAC, which has seen the likes of the University of Wollongong Dubai, Middlesex University and Amity University significantly increase their presence in Dubai – growth that is, in part, due to increased student numbers (20,000) and student enrolment numbers (26%).

DIAC managing director Dr Ayoub Kazim said he was delighted to see the universities expand the number of programmes on offer, particularly in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), along with tourism and hospitality and accounting. This was a sure sign the higher education sector in the region was responding to the demands of local industry.

Check out the DIAC website here.