A new "golden card" permanent residency scheme will help attract the best international students to the UAE, education experts have said.
The landmark initiative was launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, on Tuesday, with the first batch of 6,800 investors and residents selected to receive the cards.
The specific criteria for eligibility is still to be revealed, but the announcement has already been hailed as a positive move for the nation.
Professor Professor Christopher Abraham, head of campus at SP Jain School of Global Management in Dubai, believes the scheme will encourage many talented people to invest their future in the country.
“I definitely think this new scheme will help attract talent to the UAE and this is a step in the right direction,” said Prof Abraham.
“One thing that people have been waiting for was a long-term visa. Now, they have identified the right kind of people and it is an amazing scheme.
“It would encourage top students and it would give more stability. It would give students hope that they can stay for a longer time.
“The UAE has a lot to offer which is why it attracts more than 200 nationalities.
“When a scheme like this comes across, it would encourage students to look at Dubai as the location of choice.”
He believes the permanent visa will give researchers the impetus and motivation to stay in Dubai for longer.
The expert believes the decision will have a long-term impact as families will think of I as a permanent destination.
Last year, the UAE Cabinet announced visa changes that made provisions for graduates who have family in the country to remain in the country on a two-year residency visa to job hunt after graduation. Previously, students got an average of six months to apply for jobs after graduation.
The changes also gave outstanding students, researchers and professionals an opportunity to remain in the country for up to 10 years.
Sophie Oakes, educational adviser at Gabbitas, an education consultancy in Dubai said the opportunity to one day secure permanent residency will make studying and researching in the country a more enticing prospect.
“The new permanent residence scheme will almost certainly help to attract international talent to the UAE with regards to education, particularly in the tertiary sector,” said Ms Oakes.
“It will enable universities and colleges to attract global academic specialists in subjects that are linked to critical professions within the UAE, such as engineering and science, and thus strengthen the quality of the homegrown talent within the Emirates."
“The five and 10 year visas for sought after professionals in fields such as science, medicine, and engineering will encourage global talent to study in the UAE and stay after graduation, particularly if there is a potential for future employment.
She said universities will also be able to provide a wider breadth of degrees in the sought-after professions, which will in turn help develop the tertiary education sector.
“This will certainly make the UAE a more stable and long-term option for both students and academics.”
Saleh Yammout, vice president for admissions, finance, and administration at Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai, said the chance of securing permanent residency will help retain gifted students and encourage more to join them in the UAE.
"There are so many advantages of this at different levels. On the student recruitment side, it is a good tool to retain talented students in the UAE.
"It would help retain talented high school students and those getting into college or those in college wishing to pursue their masters."
"From the university side, this can help improve the quality of education at the university. When you recruit several top students from across the globe, it can help improve the rank of the university.
"It would motivate students and faculty to innovate so they can get the permanent residence."
Touba Marrie, a 23-year-old student from the Gambia is looking for a job in the UAE but will have to go back to his home country after August as his visa is set to expire.
“It would have been helpful to have a long-term visa. I am going to be here for two months and I am going to be looking for jobs here.”
The mathematics and economics student will be job-hunting in Abu Dhabi and Dubai until August and is hopeful of getting an opportunity in data science, finance and higher education.
As Mr Marrie and his friends look for jobs in the country, he believes future students will be helped through this scheme.
At present Dubai has 29,989 students at its universities in the free zones. The National recently reported on Indian students flocking to UAE to seek higher education.
Lately, rising number of Chinese students have also been studying in Dubai.