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Study in Abu Dhabi

By Sabrina Collier

Updated September 2, 2021 Updated September 2, 2021

Abu Dhabi for students

Abu Dhabi is the capital and second-largest city of the United Arab Emirates, as well as an increasingly popular study destination for international students. 

Located off on an island off the Persian Gulf, the city boasts more than 400 kilometres of stunning coastline, including 10 kilometres of pristine public beaches. The opportunity to study next to the city’s gorgeous beaches is complemented by year-round sunshine.

There are three excellent universities to choose from, Khalifa UniversityAbu Dhabi University and Al Ain University, as well as several branch campuses of excellent overseas institutions such as INSEADNew York University and Sorbonne University.

Would you choose Abu Dhabi? Share your thoughts

Best universities in Abu Dhabi - QS Best Student Cities ranking: Joint 92nd

World Ranking



Khalifa University


Abu Dhabi University

701-750 Al Ain University

More about Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is a new entry in the Best Student Cities index this year, placing joint 92nd in the world with two of its universities featured in the QS World University Rankings 2022. This year the city earns its best score in the student view category, based on a survey of more than 85,000 students.

Number of universities ranked by QS


Highest-ranked institution

Khalifa University (joint 211th in the world)

Population (inc. urban area)


Average international fees (at ranked unis)


Desirability rank


Employer Activity rank


Affordability rank


Student View rank


To find out how each of the above categories is calculated, view the methodology.

Why study in Abu Dhabi?

A multicultural city

The city is known for being extremely diverse, with 46 percent of its student population coming from outside the UAE. 

Home to plenty of leading universities

In addition to the two local universities, Abu Dhabi also contains several branch campuses from top ranking international universities.

It’s surprisingly affordable

This year the city ranks joint 77th for affordability – its highest score across the indicators.

Stunning landscape

Magnificent skyscrapers overlook a stunning coastline in Abu Dhabi, combining to make an enviable backdrop.

Cost of studying in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is more affordable than you might expect. It ranks joint 77th in the affordability indicator this year. This is due to Abu Dhabi’s surprisingly modest cost of living and low tuition fees in comparison to other student cities.

Numbeo estimates that a single person living in Abu Dhabi will need around 2,990AED (approx. US$813) per month, in addition to 4,630AED (approx. US$1,260) for rent in a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre. Rent in Abu Dhabi is approximately 13 percent lower than in Dubai.

Tuition fees in the city are also lower than student cities in countries such as the UK and the US. Tuition fees in Abu Dhabi cost an average of US$23,000 per year for international students.

Life and culture in Abu Dhabi

Tourists flock to Abu Dhabi to visit its skyscrapers, malls and world class hotels, but there’s so much more to the city. Abu Dhabi’s exciting and diverse culture is combined with ancient traditions, culture and history, making the city completely unique.

There’s also an abundance of breathtaking architecture to explore in your spare time, with the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the largest in the country, a particular must-see.

As well as its affordability, one of the most appealing aspects of life in Abu Dhabi is its multiculturalism – Emirati citizens represent 20 percent of the city’s population, with people from other, diverse nationalities making up the remaining 80 percent. And of its student population, almost half (46 percent) come from outside the UAE.

If you want to study in Abu Dhabi, it’s important to remember that the UAE is a Muslim country, and you should be respectful of local laws and customs at all times.

Abu Dhabi is generally slightly more conservative than Dubai, so it’s advisable to cover up with long, loose clothing – this will also help with the heat! You should be especially respectful during Ramadan and when visiting religious sites.

Careers in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have both been rated among the best places to live in the Middle East, thanks to the vibrant lifestyle of the UAE, the excellent job opportunities on offer due to the cities’ fast-growing economy, and high quality of living.

Major industries in Abu Dhabi include construction, retail, finance, manufacturing and business services. There are many international companies with branches located in the city, such as Samsung Electronics, Huawei, Boeing, BP and Etoile group.

Those working in Abu Dhabi work a maximum of eight hours per day as regulated by the UAE labor law. This is reduced by two hours per day during Ramadan.

This article was originally published in July 2019 . It was last updated in September 2021

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of TopUniversities.com, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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