New visa rules will attract families to UAE and boost school enrolment, experts say

More families, particularly from India, Lebanon and Europe expected to move to the Emirates after visa residency overhaul

UAE schools and universities will have a boom in enrolment after new visa rules come into effect in September, experts have said.

They said it was likely more families, particularly from India, Lebanon and Europe would move to the Emirates later this year.

Last month, many Indian schools in Dubai said they had recorded a boom in enrolments, particularly from families who had moved to the UAE this year.

Elmarie Venter, chief operations and marketing officer at Gems Education said: “In response to rising demand driven by an increasing population, sustained investment in infrastructure and teachers, and effective direction and support from regulators, the education sector in the UAE has been steadily growing and improving in quality and provision.

“As a result, we are seeing school enrolments rise, with our Indian curriculum schools in the UAE seeing a 6 per cent year-on-year increase in enrolments and our international schools, comprising non-Indian curriculum schools, seeing a 70 per cent increase in term three new joiners compared to this time last year.

"The new visa rules will only increase the Emirates’ appeal.”

In April, the UAE Cabinet approved one of the biggest overhauls of the visa residency system in years.

The new model, in some cases, ended the need for arrivals to get sponsorship.

People who enter as visitors will be able to stay for 60 days, rather than the 30 at present. The changes will come into effect in September.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 3rd, 2017: Speaker Ashwin Assomull. Education conference IPSEF Middle East in Dubai where ISC Research will present the latest data on international private school market in the Middle East. Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017 at Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, Dubai

Parents can sponsor their male children until the age of 25, up from 18, allowing them to remain in the UAE after school and university. This was first set out in September 2021.

The UAE's move to provide five-year green visas to middle-income workers will offer greater stability and flexibility.

Green visas will be available to people with bachelor's degrees who earn Dh15,000 ($4,084) or more per month as part of sweeping changes to attract new talent to the Emirates and encourage residents to stay longer.

University officials are excited about the effect of new visas on the education sector.

Dyllan Hancott, chief advancement officer at Canadian University Dubai said: “We anticipate that the number of students within the UAE will increase with the immigration of more young people and their families.

“We anticipate more incoming students from traditional markets like India and growing markets like China.

"The new visa options also present the opportunity for Canadian and other western expats to live and work more easily in the UAE, which is also likely to bring more students from these countries.

“We can anticipate more outstanding students who will want to jump-start their careers in this country."

Pupil numbers at Dubai’s private schools grew by 10,000 this academic year, after a dip during the pandemic.

Official statistics show 289,019 pupils were enrolled in the emirate's 215 schools at the start of the academic year, up from 279,191 for the 2020-21 term.

Talat Goldie, human resources director at Taaleem, says that as the population grows, the emirate will need to develop its infrastructure and open more schools. Photo: Talat Goldie

In the 2019-20 school year, 295,148 children were studying at 208 schools.

Ashwin Assomull, head of LEK Consulting's Global Education Practice, said that visa changes such as the introduction of the golden and green visas had helped boost the attractiveness of living in the Emirates.

“We've seen lots of people move from India," he said. "Also, we've seen all this turmoil in Lebanon, that has led to many people moving from Lebanon."

He said more people were moving from Europe for the quality of life.

He said that along with the ease of securing long-term visas, the UAE’s attractiveness as a location, time zone, air connectivity and management of the Covid-19 pandemic all helped.

“I expect school enrolments to continue to grow," Mr Assomull said. "I think next year, you'll see very strong growth, probably not in the budget segment, which is tuition fees of Dh18,000 and below, but everything above that.

“In this year, schools in the premium segment have grown at anywhere between 8 and 11 per cent. And that growth will continue to be very strong as more people move to Dubai.

“It's not just because of the visa changes, the visa is one driver of it. Everything that the government has done around managing through the last few years has helped.”

He said the new green visa would be especially helpful.

The population of Dubai is projected to nearly double in the next 20 years, say experts who predict a fresh wave of post-pandemic immigration.

The emirate nears a population of 3.5m and is expected to reach 5.8m by 2040.

Talat Goldie, human resources director at Taaleem, said that as the population grows, the emirate will need to develop its infrastructure and more schools.

She said Taaleem would look at growing their schools and opening new schools in the future.

“You need to obviously have visas in place or residencies in place that are going to attract people," said Ms Goldie.

"I think these visa systems that are bought in place ... all of this is going to help them reach that increase in the population growth."

She said the new rules such as being able to sponsor male children up to the age of 25, helped attract people who wished to settle in the country.

"All schools, I think, are now seeing an increase in enrolment numbers and much more interest," said Ms Goldie.

"That, coupled with the fact that post-pandemic a lot of people can work from home or can work from whatever location they want, means they can actually move here and work from here and move their children into schools here."

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