Interview with Kalthoom Al Balooshi from KHDA

1. What is KHDA’s role?

As a regulating body, KHDA’s overall aim is to provide students in Dubai with access to high quality education.  In addition to monitoring existing regulations, such as the fee framework, the organisation is responsible for inspecting individual schools and giving them an official Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) rating. The KHDA has increased transparency in the education sector, helping schools to improve their standards and giving parents and students the opportunity to make informed choices.

2. In your opinion, which sectors of the education market will see the biggest growth in terms of enrolments? 

Our most recent figures show that around 89% of students in Dubai are now studying in the private sector, with a growing number of schools opening every year. For the 2014/15 academic year, 11 new schools have opened, offering a further 23,000 student places. The expansion in school capacity has been matched by improvements in quality, with the past four inspection reports showing a steady growth in the number of students attending good and outstanding schools, and progress in international assessments. In line with the government’s strategic plan, we expect a total of 360,000 school places to be available in Dubai by 2020. Within the private school sector, UK and Indian curriculum schools are growing the most rapidly, with a consistent demand for places.

The Expo 2020 is set to fuel further growth in the emirate, with many developments expected. Creating more employment opportunities, this will lead to a greater influx of skilled professionals. As a result of this growth, we anticipate an increased demand for high quality education, particularly in the newly developed residential areas of Dubai.

Meanwhile there has been a growth in the number of students enrolling on higher education courses. With universities offering more choice than ever before, we expect this trend to continue. Though business courses are currently the most popular, accounting for 44% of the total, we have witnessed a rise in demand for other subjects and expect to see a greater number of vocational and training courses in the coming years.

3. Securing more transnational students is key to better positioning the Middle East as a hub for education.  How is your organisation helping to attract more transnational students?

The launch of Knowledge Village and Dubai International Academic City have been key developments in the emirate’s higher education sector. Dubai is home to the world’s largest number of international branch campuses, which are monitored by a quality assurance framework, ensuring the institutions meet the standards outlined by their home campuses.

At present we are witnessing an increase in the number of niche programmes, which address the needs of students in the region. Many of the international branch campuses offer courses which are in line with their home countries and regulated by the relevant quality assurance bodies.

Dubai is a safe, secure city, making it an attractive destination for students from across the world, particularly those coming from elsewhere in the Middle East. In addition to 169 schools and 57 higher education institutions offering 15 different curricula, the emirate is home to almost 800 training institutes, which offer a wide range of courses.

The quality and breadth of choice available, as well as the growing number of job opportunities, will enable us to continue attracting students to Dubai.

4. How does your organisation improve investment into private education in the region?

KHDA welcomes high quality new schools, training institutes and universities, catering to the diverse needs of the population. Information on how to open an educational institution in Dubai is readily available through a range of communication channels, including online applications, meetings, events, conferences and publications. We support operators and investors in their analysis of the region, offering support and transparency in the planning process through face to face meetings and detailed online assistance.  Information on the education sector is updated on a regular basis, and we take care to ensure potential investors are armed with relevant knowledge of the education landscape.

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