Increasing numbers of Chinese students are heading to Dubai to complete university degrees, new figures have shown.
Officials said some institutions had reported a 20 per cent rise year on year as undergraduates took advantage of the diversity of courses on offer.
Experts at the Gulf Education and Training Exhibition, a student recruitment fair, in Dubai on Wednesday claimed postgraduate programmes were also proving popular with a rising number of students from Beijing and Shanghai.
Places on courses in finance, accounting and computer science are the most sought-after, with business management in high demand as Masters.
“Dubai has the largest number of branch campuses in the world,” said Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.
“We work hand in hand with the campuses and we’re seeing an increase in interest especially from China.”
New figures released this week by the KHDA reveal there are currently close to 30,000 students studying at 64 higher education institutes in Dubai.
In Dubai’s free zones, where many of the universities are based, international student recruitment now stands at 29 per cent.
Chris Taylor, head of student recruitment at the University of Birmingham in Dubai, said their intake of Chinese students was expected to rise by 20 per cent this year.
"We are the university getting the biggest Chinese application numbers because our reputation in China is huge,” he said.
“Last year, 15 per cent of our student body came from China. This year, again, we got an even better number as we have a postgraduate law degree.
“At our campus in UK, some programmes have to close early in the year because they get thousands of applications.
“Students recognise this is the same programme [in Dubai] and apply to us by default because they didn’t get a place in time at the UK campus.”
Dr Cedwyn Fernandes, pro-vice chancellor at Middlesex University in Dubai, said their intake of Chinese undergraduates was also up.
Three years ago, Chinese students made up two per cent of the university’s student body, but this number has risen as high as eight per cent.
“We’re experiencing a steady growth in Chinese students,” he said. “We’d like it to be much more because we think China is a huge potential market.
"We’ve introduced programmes that can get traction in China like the Masters in Data Science, as well as a degree in fashion design.
“There is more awareness of Dubai in China.”
Gary Fernandes, vice president of student recruitment at Curtin University, said welcoming Chinese students to the UAE was a natural next step given the two country’s increasingly close economic ties.
“The UAE has strong trade relations with China such as in the real estate sector, where Chinese investors have invested billions," he said.
“In Dubai, we have opened up student opportunities with exceptional students getting five to 10-year visas.”
Professor Christopher Abraham, head of campus at SP Jain School of Management in Dubai, added that the city was rapidly developing a reputation for world-class education.
He said on top of China, the university also received students from Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, and Cambodia.
"Dubai was earlier known for hospitality and retail but now it’s being recognised for education,” he said.