Cutting-edge research in hot topics like artificial intelligence and blockchain are encouraging Emiratis to consider studying at local universities — as the institutions continue to climb global rankings.
Increased investment in research and science programmes helped boost the positions of two of the UAE's universities listed in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020.
Released on Wednesday, the list showed United Arab Emirates University had improved from the 351-400 bracket last year to the 301-350 position this year, making it the top rated university in the country.
University of Sharjah also improved its rank from 801-1000 last year to the 601-800 rank this year.
The THE judges universities on teaching, research, citations, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
Prof Hamid Al Naimiy, chancellor at University of Sharjah, said the number of local research publications in international journals had shot up at the university over the past year.
"Research is one the major criteria that universities are judged on and in the last five years, the university worked consistently, establishing three research institutes, 11 centres of excellence and around 43 research groups," he said.
"There is a lot of independent research going on at the university, particularly in health sciences and engineering, bio-engineering, new technologies, block chain, smart cities and, artificial intelligence. We also have patents in the pipeline.”
The university offers around 107 academic programmes and has a population of about 15,000 students from 100 countries.
He said universities must embrace technology to prepare their students for the future.
"Every year we rewrite syllabus and programmes and we work very hard in digital transformation," he said.
Local experts previously told The National that universities in the UAE need to improve the quality of their research to move up global higher education rankings.
Sanjeev Verma, chief executive of Dubai education consultancy Intelligent Partners, said local universities have been taking note.
"Many universities that did not make the global list a decade ago are now making the list. That is testimony to the fact that universities are investing a fair amount, getting the right teachers and putting resources where it matters,” he said.
"We see a lot of Emiratis who were earlier planning to go overseas for higher education have decided to study at local universities without any compromise on quality."
Mr Verma said universities must also focus on the needs of the industry and ensure students are prepared for the job market.