Forbes Middle East


The Middle East’s Best Institutes For Higher Education

Jason Lasardo
The Middle East’s Best Institutes For Higher Education


To uncover the Middle East’s Best Institutes For Higher Education we reached out to the industry through online questionnaires, and contacted universities from across the region. The questionnaires were extensive and collected various data, information and videos on numerous aspects of the institutes’ faculty, facilities, courses, campuses and innovation initiatives.

 Only institutes that answered the questionnaire were eligible to feature. The winners were judged by Forbes Middle East and Colliers International.

Innovation in Teaching and Learning

Abu Dhabi School of Management

Date of Establishment: 2012

Country: U.A.E.

The Abu Dhabi School of Management (ADSM) has shown outstanding innovation in teaching and learning thanks to the creation and ongoing development of a three-semester course, Experiential Learning Framework (ELF). This series of courses is intended to amplify and sharpen the entrepreneurial focus of the generalist MBA degree offered by ADSM.

Its MBA program is delivered in conjunction with the Imperial College Business School in London, combining expertise from two multicultural cities. The partnership was officially sealed during a signing ceremony held at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Merit-based scholarships are provided to applicants with outstanding academic records.

Best Smart University

Alfaisal University

Date of Establishment: 2002

Country: Saudi Arabia

Alfaisal University has 60 labs, including 25 dedicated to research. It has recently made several major enhancements to the quality and adequacy of the facilities. These improvements included the formation of smart classrooms, the establishment of new and upgraded computer laboratories, and the improvement of internet bandwidth and wireless coverage.  All classes are IT-enabled and equipped with smart board technology. It also provides apple and android apps for students.

Programs have been designed in collaboration with international academic partners to satisfy the local and international market demands. Students enjoy a rich college experience thanks to a wide array of student sports and recreational facilities, extracurricular activities and associations such as the Social Development Committee as well as the Medical Students Association, which are all committed to serving the community at large.

Best Engineering Program

American University of the Middle East

Date of Establishment: 2008

Country: Kuwait

The American University of the Middle East (AUM) is a private university in Kuwait. Students are offered undergraduate programs in business and engineering, as well as a graduate program in business administration. The university adopts a learner-centered approach to engineering, which focuses on understanding each learner in the context of a well-crafted learning experience. There are over 700 faculty members and staff at AUM from around 62 nationalities.

Based in Egaila, AUM has a campus of 161,190 square meters and hosts over 9,000 students. It is affiliated with Purdue University in Indiana, U.S., and is accredited by the Private Universities Council of the Government of Kuwait.

Best Campus

Amity University Dubai

Date of Establishment: 2011

Country: U.A.E.

Amity University Dubai has a beautiful state-of-the-art campus in Dubai’s International Academic City. The 700,000 square foot campus can accommodate over 3,000 students. Among its numerous facilities are 26 laboratories, two synthetic tennis courts, two cemented cricket practice nets, a 400-meter track, an indoor fully-equipped gym and a swimming pool.

Founded in 2011, Amity University Dubai is also home to an Incubation Centre, where students can develop their ideas for startups under expert mentoring. Industry leaders regularly visit the campus to interact with students. Besides academia, Amity’s support in mental health has led to a designated Gaming Zone, created for students to unwind and de-stress.

Best Technology Program

Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani Dubai Campus

Date of Establishment: 2000

Country: U.A.E.

BITS Pilani began in collaboration with MIT in the U.S. in 1964. It has collaborations with around 100 industries. Students of its technology program have gone on to pursue graduate studies at the California Institute of Technology, Stanford, Harvard, University of Southern California, Nanyang Technological University, University of Cambridge, University of Texas and many other leading global institutions.  Graduates have gone on to work at leading companies like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

The BITS Pilani Dubai campus is the GCC division and is located in Dubai International Academic City. It is dedicated to offering quality engineering, sciences and management education, and offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate programs in various engineering and allied disciplines. Nearly 1,500 students are admitted from over 20 nations globally.

International Collaboration of The Year

Canadian University Dubai

Date of Establishment: 2006

Country: U.A.E.

The Canadian University Dubai (CUD) delivers outstanding academic programs based on Canadian curriculum and education principles. Through its programs it provides a gateway for students to pursue higher education, research and employment opportunities in Canada.

It is the first accredited Canadian university outside of Canada. Studying at CUD gives students the opportunity to obtain a Canadian education while experiencing the unique culture and values of the United Arab Emirates. CUD offers its students the opportunity to transfer earned credits to complete their degree in Canada, or take part in a student exchange or summer study camp program.

The community and innovation-driven faculty organize events ranging from the U.A.E.’s first International Robot Maker (IRM) competition to presentations on self-driving machines. One of its goals is to provide a portal to Canadian education.

Best Postgraduate Dental Institution

European University College

Date of Establishment: 2005

Country: U.A.E.

The European University College (EUC), Dubai is the first postgraduate dental institution to offer training programmes in the MENA region. Providing dental education since 2005, EUC employs an international faculty from the U.S., Sweden, England, France and the U.A.E.

The EUC offers state-of-the-art services, trend-led academia and treatments, with reputable experience in handling complex cases in the U.A.E. Dubai Healthcare City houses the primary educational facility for EUC, but a day-surgery facility, operating room and simulation laboratory are available externally, as well as a mobile van equipped for dentistry and primarily used by pediatric dentistry.

Best Medical Education University

Gulf Medical University

Date of Establishment: 1998

Country: U.A.E.

Gulf Medical University (GMU) is owned and operated by Thumbay Group, founded by Thumbay Moideen. The 100,000 square meter campus is in Ajman, U.A.E. GMU offers medical and health professional education in the field of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, nursing, medical laboratory sciences, anesthesia and surgical technology, and medical imaging sciences. All programs are recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and listed in the WHO Directory of Medical Schools.

GMU’s affiliated teaching hospital for students, Thumbay Hospitals, are located in Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah. The Thumbay Research Institute for precision medicine, the Thumbay Institute for Population Health and the Thumbay Institute of Health Workforce Development are GMU hubs for research, post-graduate studies and continuous professional development.

Best University

Heriot-Watt University

Date of Establishment: 2005 

Country: U.A.E.

After over 180 years of providing higher education in the U.K., Heriot-Watt was the first British university invited to build a campus in Dubai. Since opening in 2005, the Dubai campus has grown from the initial 120 headcount to over 4,500 enrolled students today. The university offers around 100 courses in Dubai, ranging from artificial intelligence to fashion design. The option to transfer to the university’s other campuses in Scotland or Malaysia, remains a key appeal for prospective students looking to gain a global experience.

At the Dubai site, students are taught and examined to the same standards as on the university’s U.K. campuses. It offers specialized degrees in management, engineering, built environment, food science and fashion.

Most Innovative University

Higher Colleges of Technology

Date of Establishment: 1988

Country: U.A.E.

The Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is one of the largest institutions for higher education in the U.A.E. HCT has incorporated a number of tools to drive innovation, including a Microsoft Imagine Academy, virtual labs for academics and a digital campus. It also runs an innovation and entrepreneurship center. The international faculty teaches courses in business, engineering, computer science, health sciences and applied communications.

Collaborations with external partners have been critical in supporting applied research in the U.A.E. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange recently launched the Zayed Center of Excellence for Financial Research, at the HCT Abu Dhabi Women’s Campus. Whereas in Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, inaugurated the “HCT InncuVation Space” at the HCT-Dubai campuses—a high-tech innovation and entrepreneurial incubator—in March 2019.

Best Internship Placement

IMT Business School

Date of Establishment: 2006

Country: U.A.E.

The Institute of Management Technology (IMT) arranged an incredible 150 internships last year and maintains close relationships with former students after graduation, tapping into the relevant professional experience of alumni—100% of its students found employment within six weeks of graduation.

IMT was among the first international business schools to set up a full-fledged campus in Dubai International Academic City in 2006. The B-School designs a curriculum that favors the careers of their students and gives them the skills to meet the demands of corporations seeking to hire professionals capable of adapting to the evolving political, economic and business environment. The entrepreneurial skills of students are put to the test via leadership roles and industry engagement programs.

Best Use of Big Data

Luminus Technical  University College

Date of Establishment: 1980

Country: Jordan

Part of the wider Luminus Education Group, the Luminus Technical University College (LTUC) is completely integrated when it comes to data analytics—from choosing students, to its fees and marketing. LTUC offers programs based on identified market needs and employment requirements. It develops entrepreneurial and career training for students, equipping them for the real world and its economic challenges.

Since 1999, LTUC has graduated over 40,000 students from 23 countries and has an employment placement rate of over 80%. Today, more than 3,000 students graduate every year. LTUC’s current enrollment stands at more than 4,500 students, ranging in age from 16 to 45. Its student body mainly consists of youth from low to lower-middle income households in Jordan. LTUC also educates young refugees from Syria residing in Jordan.

Outstanding Support for Students

Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Dubai Campus

Date of Establishment: 2000

Country: U.A.E.

India’s largest private university, the Manipal Academy of Higher Education’s (MAHE), motto reads: “Our students are the center of our universe.” Established in Dubai in 2000, the university currently enrolls over 1,500 students from 26 countries in its Middle East branch.

It expanded to a bigger campus, which can accommodate over 4,000 students, in September 2011. Besides the contemporary multi-functional classrooms, MAHE Dubai houses cutting-edge engineering, bio-technology and information technology laboratories as well as innovative communications and interior designs programs.

With emphasis on extra-curricular projects and career development, MAHE provides students with a holistic university experience through opportunities like exposure to guest lecturers and involvement in the Middle East Future Generation Competition.

Best Media Center

Middlesex University Dubai

Date of Establishment: 2004

Country: U.A.E.

The media center at Middlesex University Dubai offers bachelor’s degrees in: journalism and communication; advertising, PR and branding; and film. Students can use its MDX Studios featuring industry-standard editing suites and a newly-designed integrated learning space, including a screening room. MDX Studios is the only film university in the Middle East to be certified by Blackmagic Design.

Expert faculty, including professional journalists and film makers with a vast array of industry and academic experience, bring a diverse range of skillsets and knowledge to the classroom. Students are encouraged to participate in internships, field trips and competitions, and have won various awards including The Young Journalist Award at the Dubai Film Festival, The Big Start Competition for young entrepreneurs, and the B-Hive Middle East student competition.

Outstanding Support to Government Sponsored Students


Date of Establishment: 2012

Country: U.A.E.

Navitas has educated thousands of government sponsored students, who are supported for their degrees and qualifications and usually study abroad. It has recruited and been an integral part of the education journey of students sponsored by a number of government entities, including the U.A.E. Ministry of Education, the Abu Dhabi Police and both the U.A.E. and Saudi Ministries of Interior.

Navitas was founded in Perth, Western Australia in 1994 and has since grown to become a premier provider of international education to tens of thousands of people across the globe. It provides an extensive range of educational services to over 70,000 aspirational students across their global network at 120 colleges and campuses in 24 countries.

Outstanding Impact On The Local Community

Notre Dame University - Louaize

Date of Establishment: 1987  Country: Lebanon

Founded in 1987, Notre Dame University – Louaize (NDU) is Lebanon’s non-profit private Catholic university. The multi-campus-based university adopts an American curriculum and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Equally important as academia is the theme of sustainability to the university. NDU, which became a member of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), started implementing sustainability projects in 2013 across all three of its campuses as part of this commitment.

Over the past 20 years, NDU student enrollment has risen from 50 to 5,000 while international visiting scholars have increased by over 25%. It established the first-degree programs in actuarial science, medical lab technology, diplomacy and corporate law in the country.

Best Women-Only University

Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University

Date of Establishment: 1970 Country: Saudi Arabia

All of Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University’s (PNU’s) students are female. It is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and is built on the values of female empowerment and educational excellence. It is the largest women’s university in the world. PNU offers diplomas, bachelor and postgraduate degrees with over 60,000 students enrolled across its 34 colleges.

From funding research projects to establishing multi-disciplinary research centers in the colleges, the university attracts students for its distinguished research culture. International partnerships with universities in Europe, Australasia and the U.S. aid graduates entering the workplace with a global education. The 13 million square meters campus houses 600 high-tech smart buildings, accessed by 22 driverless metro trains.

Outstanding Learning Philosophy

Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University

Date of Establishment: 2006

Country: Saudi Arabia

The Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, which offers both undergraduate and some selected masters programs, has always adopted a learner-centered approach that has improved learning outcomes and facilitated a higher success rate among students.

Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz first launched his idea for a world class university, drawing up his vision of being a top tier academic institution offering distinguished education and using the latest technologies. He initiated the first steps towards its establishment when he donated the land in Half Moon Bay, City of Al Khobar, in the Eastern Province of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Best Business School

Skyline University College

Date of Establishment: 1990

Country: U.A.E.

Skyline University College’s (SUC) School of Business trains and fulfils the educational needs of the aviation, hospitality, travel & tourism, information systems, marketing, business management and finance sectors.

Through its services committee, SUC initiates and organizes business and community outreach activities in partnership with different organizations such as the Ministry of Health, the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, the Environment Protected Area Authority, Sharjah Municipality, the Al Thiqa Club and Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services.

SUC was established in 1990 in University City, Sharjah under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, a member of the U.A.E. Supreme Council and the Ruler of Sharjah.

Best Humanities Education University

Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi

Date of Establishment: 2006 

Country: U.A.E.

Sorbonne University offers a wide disciplinary range of humanities programs in French studies, history, geography and planning, philosophy, sociology, history of art and archeology, and foreign languages.  Students then have the opportunity to pursue graduate studies in a wide range of further humanities including the history of art and museum studies; applied sociological research; urban planning and development; dynamics of territories and societies; and the management of performing arts and events.

Established in 2006 as a result of an agreement between Sorbonne University (SU) in Paris and the Government of Abu Dhabi, Sorbonne Abu Dhabi (SUAD) attracts students from the U.A.E. and around the world. Most of the courses are taught by professors from Paris to ensure the same standards are met. Learning takes place on a state-of-the-art campus on Al Reem Island, which welcomes over 1,700 students from 90 nationalities.

Best MBA Program

The University of Manchester Middle East Centre

Date of Establishment: 2006

Country: U.A.E.


Since opening in October 2006, the University of Manchester Middle East Centre in Dubai Knowledge Park has supported more than 2,500 part-time MBA students and graduated more than 1,500. In 2018, it also started offering a joint MBA program with the Kelley Business School in the U.S.

The center team has recruited and supported students enrolling on the global part-time MBA program, delivered through a blended learning format, with face-to-face MBA workshops hosted in Dubai, as well as executive education programs. The center also works actively within the U.A.E. community, creating access to the school’s teaching faculty and academic thinkers through a guest speaker program.

Best Value Education

University of Bolton, Academic Centre - Ras Al Khaimah

Date of Establishment: 2008

Country: U.A.E.

Operating out of a 42,000 square foot facility, the motto of the University of Bolton, Academic Centre based in Ras Al Khaimah, U.A.E. is to provide high quality education to all students while working in a competitive environment.

The center’s teaching and learning strategy, “Teaching Intense and Research Informed”, helps students who plan to continue with higher studies either in the Gulf or other parts of the world.

It is licensed by the Government of Ras Al Khaimah. Foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs are offered in several disciplines such as accounting, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, business management, law, psychology and computing.

Technological Innovation of the Year

University of Bradford

Date of Establishment: 2008

Country: U.A.E.

One of the first to establish an MBA program in the country, the University of Bradford has embraced technology to cater to its vast student body that flock to it for the university’s varied business degrees. The institution’s learning portal supports students regardless of their career stage, enabling accessibility to international education via online tutorials and innovative audio-visual technology tools.

Launched in 2008 in Dubai, besides the specialty, Bradford also delivers foundation and undergraduate courses at the same recognized standards, all of which are accredited from AMBA, AACSB and EQUIS.

Its state-of-the-art facilities are located in Dubai Knowledge Park, although emphasis on flexible learning has resulted in options to study the British curriculum in Bradford, Toulouse and through online distance learning.

Best Hospitality & Tourism Program

Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School

Date of Establishment: 2018

Country: Bahrain

An award-winning leader in hospitality education, the Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School encourages nationals to follow a career path within the hospitality and tourism industry. Headquartered in France, Vatel has 50 hospitality management schools located across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. The campus in Bahrain opened in 2018 and maintains the Vatel Group’s consistency in delivering its accredited hospitality degrees in English at bachelor and master’s level.

Students get access to exclusive recognized events like Future Gates, organized by the Bahrain’s Ministry of Education, which enhances their industry knowledge and post-graduation careers prospects. Partnerships with luxury hotels and F&B establishments allow for vocational off-campus training under the supervision of professionals from Michelin-starred careers.

Best CSR 

Westford University College

Date of Establishment: 2009

Country: U.A.E.

Founded upon the idea of creating affordable educational experiences in 2009, accessibility remains at the forefront of Westford University College’s (WUC) activities. Its WE Cares CSR initiative takes up projects related to children, education and environment. The projects allow students, faculties and alumni to actively participate in outreach programs to contribute their knowledge, skills and technical expertise to the community, striving to make a difference to the underprivileged in any way possible.

Seeking to reduce the barriers to higher education, WUC provides flexible learning options catering to the needs of working professionals with its work-life-study balance plan. Courses can be taken online or in the classrooms on campus, supported by a learning management system. The international faculty contributes with quality teaching, learning and research, resulting in fulfilling academic experiences for the students.

I along with my team make the rankings and lists at Forbes Middle East, we collect and collate data, value and rank individuals. I have been making lists at Forbes Middle East for the past 5 years, prior to which I worked with investment banks, I have an MBA and I'm Chartered Management Accountant charter holder

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