Perched on a series of islands in the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is the gleaming, fast-paced capital city of the United Arab Emirates. Among the glitzy shops, spectacular skyscraper architecture, the Grand Prix circuit and theme parks at Yas, and cultural hotspots such as The Louvre, which opens on Saadiyat Island in November 2017, there are some of the best universities in the region.
With more than 120 nationalities living in Abu Dhabi, you’ll enjoy a multi-cultural experience in a politically stable city underpinned by its strong Muslin faith. So if you’re looking for an urban adventure in a welcoming culture, choose Abu Dhabi, the leading educational hub in the Middle East, and you’ll get the chance to study at prestigious offshoots of New York University or Paris’s Sorbonne. Choose to study abroad in Abu Dhabi and you’ll find year-around sunshine and pristine beaches lapped by gentle seas... plus world-class education!
At Go Overseas, we strive to provide the most comprehensive program and study abroad listings available. At this time, we are only able to find a few study abroad opportunities in Abu Dhabi, listed below. You can read this full guide to studying abroad in Abu Dhabi, or use the Search page to explore other study abroad opportunities.
Life & Culture
Abu Dhabi is one of seven deeply religious emirates (political territories) that make up the UAE and its relatively open-minded, welcoming culture highlights a total commitment to hospitality and tolerance of others. This marks it as a true Muslim society, forward-thinking and accepting of international influences.
Culture & Immersion
Thanks to its Muslim roots, Abu Dhabi culture is at heart deeply conservative. Local residents dress in traditional costume: long, flowing black abayas and sheyla head scarves for women; the full-length, white kandura for men, topped off with a red-and-white checkered headdress called a ghutra, fastened in place with a black cord agal. However, all overseas visitors are free to dress in their own style as well as practice their own religion.
Culture Shock & Support
Despite the UAE’s relatively relaxed attitudes towards overseas visitors, you’ll need to take a couple of things on board before your arrival to study in Abu Dhabi. Out of respect for your Muslim hosts, dress modestly; especially women should be conscious to cover arms and legs. The drinking of alcohol, smoking, and showing affection towards someone of the opposite sex in public are all against the law. There is zero tolerance towards drinking and driving, and all controlled drugs are banned. Bringing them into the emirate will lead to a jail sentence followed by deportation.
Another aspect of life in Abu Dhabi that takes people by surprise is the heat. Although all modern buildings are air conditioned, daytime temperatures can top 12050°C in summer, making it unpleasant to be outside in glaring sunshine.
All Abu Dhabi university campuses have well-developed support systems to safeguard the welfare and happiness of their international students in a safe and positive environment.
There’s plenty for students to do in Abu Dhabi, thanks to the constant opening of new theme parks, museums, international restaurants, stores, and hotel chains. With guaranteed sunshine all year, there are beach clubs and a café culture to enjoy, while the shopping malls of Dubai and overnight adventures in the desert dunes are short hops away.
Abu Dhabi residents are intensely family oriented and also love to pursue their traditional past times, including camel racing, falconry and dhow sailing.
Insider Tips for Studying in Abu Dhabi
You’ll need to show your passport when buying a new cell phone or SIM card.
Explore your neighborhood to find out where locals buy their groceries; it’s much less costly than going to the malls.
Use your leisure time to travel through the United Arab Emirates, from the bright lights of Dubai to the oasis city of Al Ain near the border with Oman, or the cultural charms of Sharjah’s Heritage Area.
Planning Your Trip
Moving to Abu Dhabi requires a great deal of aforethought and preparation. It is an emirate obsessed with paperwork and each stage of your application should be carefully planned.
Third-party providers organize programs, arrange accommodation and offer scholarships for students heading overseas. While these programs generally come with a high price tag, if you're heading to Abu Dhabi you’ll have a support network while you grow accustomed to living in an unfamiliar culture -– and most programs offer excursions and community events to help you settle in to your new country.
If you’re confident about going it alone, enroll directly at university in Abu Dhabi. You’ll be responsible for enrollment on your course and expected to find your own accommodation but you’ll pay considerably less in tuition fees than if you decided to follow a program.
Participating in a direct-exchange program allows you to experience life in Abu Dhabi while continuing your chosen degree course. Many students choose this option; your school can organise your exchange and you'll likely travel with a ready-made set of friends from home. A period spent studying abroad will always look great on your résumé but the downside is that you won't have much flexibility over where and what you study.
Living on campus is an integral part of student life and most universities in Abu Dhabi provide modern accommodations for overseas students. This may be in dormitories for two or three people or self-contained apartments, all single sex. Elsewhere in the city, private accommodation is mostly in high-rise apartment blocks and costs between US$800 and US$1,500 per calendar month.
Getting in and out of Abu Dhabi is easy for overseas students as its international airport is a major Middle Eastern hub. To make the most of what your airline offers, sign up to its frequent flier program.
The emirate’s roads are overladen and traffic jams are a part of everyday life. The Abu Dhabi Department of Transport operates buses on more than 95 routes across the region and several universities offer a free shuttle bus between campus and accommodations for their students.
Costs & Funding
Abu Dhabi is a vast, vibrant city with much to offer its students outside their coursework. Although it is not a cheap city, the cost of living there is not as high as in New York, Los Angeles or London.
Cost of Living
You’ll find that living expenses in Abu Dhabi are around US$800 per month excluding accommodation costs. Shopping locally and avoiding the mega-markets and malls will keep grocery bills down considerably. If you’re running a car, gas costs less than bottled water, while bus and taxi fares are also reasonable.
You’ll need a sponsor who is resident in Abu Dhabi to get a visa to study there, but if you don’t have relatives or contacts in the emirate, your university will normally sort this out for you. A student visa is valid for one year at a time and is renewed annually. Visa fees vary between universities and cost up to US$820; there’s also a security deposit of US$270.
On arrival in Abu Dhabi, be ready to produce a mass of paperwork, including your passport (at least six months validity required) and four copies; up to a dozen passport-sized photographs; an admission letter from your chosen university; bank statements; and copies of receipts for tuition and visa fees. Post-grad students need to provide evidence of their first degree. You will also be required to undergo a medical examination at an authorized Abu Dhabi medical center.
Can You Work While Studying in Abu Dhabi?
If you’re over the age of 18 and studying in Abu Dhabi, you’ll be able to work part-time to help support your studies and help with living expenses. A student work permit costs approximately US$136.
Fully funded scholarships, covering tuition fees, accommodation, travel costs, and a living allowance, are available for some Abu Dhabi institutions such as the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
The opportunity to study abroad should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial means. Annually, we award scholarships to about half of...
Verto Education Opportunity Grant
This grant awards students between $5,000 and $10,000 based on their household income, as long as it is under $125,000/year. Households that have been...