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Education and Healthcare in the UAE

With 80% of the UAE’s population being foreign born, the country is often considered an expat’s paradise. Indeed, you’ll find that many aspects of living in the UAE combine to make settling in fairly easy for expats. Our InterNations Guide gives you a detailed overview of expat life in the UAE.
Get info from your local UAE embassy on which drugs are restricted.


Until the 1960s, there were no non-religious schools or schools for girls in the UAE. The schools that existed about fifty years ago belonged to Mosques and accepted only boys. Since 1965, when the first school for girls opened its doors, the educational system has undergone gradual reforms. The emirate of Sharjah was the first one to introduce education for girls, proving to be the most progressive emirate in the entire country.

Today there is compulsory schooling for all children aged 6 to 12, with boys and girls being taught separately. After this, education continues in preparatory schools (ages 12 to 15) or secondary schools (age 12 to 18), where students can earn a degree and prepare for higher education. The majority of students in Dubai (89%) attend private school; this is also the case with 57.4% of students throughout the UAE.

Since the UAE is a country which is extremely popular among expats, international schools and Westernized schools offer a special curriculum and a Western environment for expat children. These schools usually have their very own curriculum and degree and do not stick to the educational system of the UAE.

Higher Education

Once they have received their high school diploma (or an equivalent thereof), Emiratis and expat children can progress to higher education. A total of 95% of females and 80% of males enrolled in their final year of secondary school apply for higher education.

Places at state universities in the UAE are almost exclusively reserved for Emirati students. Only a very limited number of foreign students are accepted, and the admission process is very tough. Just like schools, these universities are not co-educational.

State universities in the UAE include the UAE University in Al Ain, the Sheikh Zayed University and Higher Colleges of Technology. Also, many universities from Europe, Asia and the US have campuses in the UAE.

Expat students who do not want to undergo the tedious process of applying for a place at a state university can attend one of the several private universities. Most of them are located in Dubai and Sharjah, the expat hub and the cultural center of the country respectively. They are more welcoming to international students, making admission for non-Emirati applicants easier and having a more diverse student body.

Among the most popular private universities is the American University in Sharjah, which was founded by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi.


Doctors and high-quality medical care are readily available in the UAE, but they are not always comparable to Western European standards. In bigger cities, especially those with a high percentage of expats, it is easy to find foreign doctors and medical staff. All in all, more than 27 hospitals and 1,600 health care centers offer medical services of all kinds.

The most modern international hospital in the UAE is the Rashid Hospital in Dubai. The state hospital in Abu Dhabi and some private hospitals also offer great services, while clinics in Ras al-Kaimah and Sharjah have slightly lower standards.

The UAE also offers excellent maternal health services, leading to a very low birth mortality rate. Doctors and hospitals offer great immunization coverage, too. Therefore, there are almost no outbreaks of common, preventable children’s diseases. Polio has been eliminated completely, and the outbreak of measles has been strongly reduced.


Medication is cheaper than in most Western countries. For antibiotics and cortisone, no prescription is necessary. The UAE is free of malaria, but it has sporadic outbreaks of typhoid fever and other communicable diseases such as viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, and meningococcal meningitis.

As of October 2014, the CDC also recommends practicing enhanced precautions against MERS, which has been identified throughout the Arabian Peninsula. The leading causes of death, however, are cardiovascular diseases due to the high consumption of tobacco among the local population.

The UAE has very strict anti-narcotics laws. Their anti-drug policies also include prescription drugs that may be entirely legal in your country. If you need to regularly take psychoactive drugs such as tranquilizers, anti-depressants, etc., ask either the UAE Embassy in your home country or your diplomatic mission in Dubai for advice before you leave. They can tell you exactly which medical certificates and administrative forms may be required to import such drugs for your personal use.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Peter B. Krehmer

"There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together. "

Suzanne Payne

"Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats. "

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