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Ras Al Khaimah 2017 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: LABOR MARKET

One side effect of Ras Al Khaimah's efforts to further diversify its economy is the growing need for specialized skills and talented individuals. This leaves a huge opportunity for new universities to fill in the market's needs and push existing institutions to develop courses that are closely aligned with the demands of the labor market.

Access to education was limited when the UAE was established in 1971. Since then, an enormous transformation has taken place and considerable investment has been made to support the educational needs of an ever-expanding population and an ever-more complex economy. A total of four institutions are now accredited by the Emirate's Commission for Academic Accreditation, and enrollment rose almost 40% between 2009 and 13, the second highest rate in the whole of the UAE.

There is huge potential for high ROI for those willing to establish branches in the UAE. The rapidly growing population has been well documented, a fact that has been further fortified by a HSBC report released in the summer of 2016 illustrating that children's education is the highest priority for parents. The report found that most parents are prepared to cut other expenses and luxuries to keep enough money in their purses to pay for their children's tuition. On average, parents in the UAE pay USD18,360 each year for their children's higher education, over double the worldwide average of USD7,631. An added fact is that many parents prefer to send their children overseas to study in countries like the US, the UK, or Australia. The opportunities are therefore about plugging this brain drain, and boosting revenue to local education providers. All of these factors culminate in a powerful enthusiasm for Ras Al Khaimah's academic free zone.

Ras Al Khaimah's education standards are being pushed up, with local and international students receiving training from renowned schools, colleges, and universities that have been attracted to set up a branch in the UAE. The universities in Ras Al Khaimah are continuously adapting syllabuses to the Emirate's changing market needs, and put a particular emphasis on training tomorrow's leaders in the ways of the knowledge-based economy. For example, during an interview with the Higher College of Technology of Ras Al Khaimah, deputy vice chancellor Dr. Ali Mansoori explained that with the right talent anything is possible. “The industry has changed from heavy machinery to simulations, robotics, micro systems, and chips; therefore, we are trying to introduce topics that may or may not require going into the field, such as circuit design and microchip system programming, for example,” he explained. Other universities, such as the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK), see the tourism industry as one of the driving forces of RAK's economy and, therefore, are tailoring their programs accordingly. “We also embarked on international partnerships and signed an agreement with Nebraska University to offer a focus in hospitality and tourism. We think that tourism and hospitality is a very important specialization, especially when the whole of the UAE, and Ras Al Khaimah in particular, are putting emphasis on tourism as one of the pillars of development,” explained Prof. Hassan Hamdan Al Alkim, President of AURAK.

To cater to the growing demand the Emirate has created an academic district within the Free Trade Zone, with the ultimate goal of attracting top educational institutions and service providers from around the world to help develop the educational infrastructure of the Emirate, an educational melting pot of excellence. To attract these sector leaders, the free zone provides a dedicated zone for education providers that offers these companies the chance to do their work, but at a much lower cost. So far, RAK Academic Zone is home to educational institutions such as Birla Institute of Technology and Madurai Kamaraj University from India, the University of Bolton from the UK, and Vatel Emirates School from France.