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The UAE or United Arab Emirates, commonly known simply as the Emirates, is a wealthy country with a booming economy, located on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Fueled by the outpouring of oil from the country’s massive fossil fuels industry, commerce is thriving in the UAE. Despite being a relatively small country, the Emirates have the 6th-largest oil reserves on the planet. This oil wealth has vastly enriched the wealthier classes of Emirati society, and overflowing coffers have led to investments in things like infrastructure, public works, and of course education.
Politically, the UAE consists of 7 absolute monarchies loosely clustered around a weak central government. Although the Constitution of the Emirates states that regular elections (among ruling families, not the people) should determine leadership within the federal government, in effect top government posts invariably go to members of the royal families. Thus, the political organization of United Arab Emirates is more akin to a federation of monarchies than to a nation-state in the modern sense.
Ever since the 1960s, when oil was discovered in unification achieved as a result, education has been rapidly improving in the United Arab Emirates. Today, literacy stands at approximately 91% (although the vast proliferation and rapid migrations of immigrant populations make this a difficult number to pin down precisely), and education accounts for more than 25% of all government spending.
Prioritizing education has been a successful approach for the UAE, which has seen achievement numbers skyrocket throughout the country. Free education is available from kindergarten all the way through the undergraduate level, and almost 90% of high school graduates apply to one or more universities. This high demand for higher education is indicative of the quality of education received at the primary and secondary levels, and helps to reinforce the need to commit resources to the university system.
The rapidity with which the UAE has developed an effective, integrated, and independent education system is remarkable, especially in the area of colleges and universities. After only a few decades of unification, the Emirates have one of the best university systems in the region, and have become a popular destination for aspiring students from across the Middle East and around the world. With excellent universities and a prosperous economy, it is no surprise that large numbers of foreign students come to the UAE to live, work, and study.
Much of the reason for the UAE’s popularity among foreign students is the familiarity that Westerners and many other foreigners feel in Emirati cities. Boasting modern shopping malls, skyscrapers, and a physical infrastructure is among the best in the Middle East, cities in the UAE feel in many ways the European or American cities influenced by a unique Middle Eastern culture. In addition, the UAE is safe, stable, and secure.
As one of the world’s main Arabic speaking nations, the UAE is a popular destination for students seeking to gain an immersion experience in the Arabic language. However, although Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, English is in fact more widely used in urban areas throughout most of the country. This is a result of the fact that the UAE is home to sizable immigrant communities from South and Southeast Asia. In a diverse and multilingual society such as this, English is frequently used as the lingua franca.