Canada is attracting a growing number of UAE learners drawn by its cheaper tuition fees, permanent residency options and courses tailored to helping students to get a foothold on the career ladder.
The country welcomed a record 450,000 international students last year, with 36,000 of those from the Mena region.
Three of its institutions made the top 50 of the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2023, with University of Toronto leading the way in 18th.
Vandana Mahajan, founder of Futures Abroad, an education consultancy in the Emirates, said she had witnessed an increase in the number of students travelling from the Emirates to Canada.
“Last year we sent over 200 students to Canada from the UAE and I'm seeing a large increase from last year to this year,” said Ms Mahajan.
“The recruitment season is ongoing but we anticipate to send more than 500 students to Canada this year.
“The Co-op work programme is very popular and originated from Canadian universities and colleges, which means students do alternate semesters of study and work."
She said many universities offered co-op courses for domestic and international students, and had strong industry connections.
“It's very cost effective and the residency possibility makes it very attractive for international students," she said.
Among the attractions for students are tuition fees considerably cheaper than those in the US, starting at about 13,700 Canadian dollars (Dh36,659) per year for a Bachelor’s degree programme.
For a masters programme, fees range from CAD17,000 (Dh45,489) to CAD25,000 (Dh66,896) per year.
Students choose Canada
University hopefuls turned out in force at the Canadian Education Fair in Dubai on Wednesday.
Brendon Jinadasa, a 17-year-old pupil at Cambridge High School Abu Dhabi, is in the process of applying for bachelors studies in Canada.
He hopes to study mechanical engineering at University of Toronto in the autumn of 2023.
“I wanted to pursue engineering and I thought they had some very good courses at University of Waterloo and University of Toronto. I thought about Canada and also because of jobs," said Mr Jinadasa, from Sri Lanka.
“The co-op programme is very important to me as I think the experience of working is very valuable.”
Yasseen Ashri, 17, an Egyptian pupil at Universal American School, Dubai, is attracted by the opportunity to lay down roots in the country.
“I want to study media, film and television in Toronto Metropolitan University," said Mr Ashri.
“I picked Canada because it's diverse. Also, if you study there for four years, and work there for two years, you can get permanent residency. Findings opportunities is much harder in the US."
After finishing his studies he plans to work in Canada for two years.
“Canada is not like the United States where everything is very competitive. I can establish myself and as a television and media major, I know there are more opportunities," he said.
He said the US offered scholarships but these were hard to achieve.
"In Canada, they offer more scholarships and some universities are cheaper," he said.
"For Toronto Metropolitan University, for my degree in media, which is my top choice, I think I will have to spend around CAD30,000 [Dh80,275] per year."
'A chance to grow'
Indian pupil Navya Grover, 17, aims to pursue bachelors studies in computer science in Ontario or British Columbia next year.
"In Canada there's just so much potential for growth and settling down in the future," said Ms Grover, who studies at Gems Wellington International School in Dubai.
“In the co-op programme where you work alongside your studies, you're paid, it's like an internship.
"University of Waterloo and some other universities have excellent co-op programmes, some of the best in the world.
"You work alongside and you get to not only learn the subject but also gain real-world experience and be paid for the for the work that you do. So for students who require financial assistance, it's very beneficial."
She said the programme also helped students gain experience at different companies.
"I'm also aware that after completing your undergraduate studies, you're given a visa and you're allowed to work there for a few years, before which you are given a permanent residency. So I really like how the country's has opportunities even after completing your studies."
Andrew Bou-chrouche, a 17-year-old Lebanese-Canadian pupil in Dubai, said he hoped to study commerce in Canada next year.
He said that for him it was like going home but a majority of his friends were only applying to Canada based on word-of-mouth reviews.
"Out of 70 people in my whole grade, I know 25, almost a third are going to Canada," said Mr Bou-chrouche.