1. Terminology

2. Typology of provision

2.1 State education provision 

2.2 Non-state education provision 

2.3 Other types of schools 

3. Governance and regulations

3.1 Regulations by distinct levels of education

3.2 Supplementary private tutoring 


  1. Terminology

The Federal Decree Law No. (18) concerning Private Education in the UAE 2020 is the main federal law governing non-state pre-primary to secondary education and defines private schools in Article 1 as ‘any non- governmental educational institution in the country that provides educational services from the pre-school stage and up to the higher education level which may be a for profit or non-profit institution.’ This definition is further supported by the various Emirate-level authorities responsible for private education in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah. In Abu Dhabi for example, this authority is the Department for Knowledge and Education (ADEK) and it defines private schools in its ‘Private School Policy and Guidance Manual’ as ‘every non- government institution concerned with education from kindergarten to high school.’ In Dubai, the 2017 Dubai Executive Council Resolution (Article 1) provides an extended definition which stipulates that private schools are ‘non-governmental educational institution[s] conducting the Educational Activity in the Emirate pursuant to an Educational Permit. This includes non-profit schools and schools owned by diplomatic missions.’ This expanded definition underscores the regulatory oversight established for private schools as well as offering an insight on the various types of non-state schools that are in operation.

Regarding Early Childhood, the Ministerial Resolution No. 644 of 2020 for early childhood care and education policy provides an extensive definition of Early Childhood and Care Centers that encompasses both state and non-state actors indicating that they include ‘all licensed activities for the care and education of children in early childhood, whether governmental or private, profit or nonprofit that provide childcare and education services regardless of activity, service hours, setting, type of curriculum or program offered. This includes nurseries in government workplaces, government nurseries, separate or attached private schools and kindergartens and first and second grades from public or private primary schools.

Non-state Higher Education Institutions are considered private post-secondary Higher Education (HE) institutions by the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA). The CAA is the UAE Federal Government Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. It is responsible for accrediting post-secondary degree, diploma and certificate programs that have a study duration of at least one year and in which their degrees correspond to a level from 5-10 as per the National Qualifications Framework (QFEmirates) of the UAE.


  1. Typology of provision

2.1 State education provision

State schools

Education is compulsory from the age of 6 (Grade 1) until Grade 12, or when a child reaches the age of 18. The Constitution of 1971 (Article 17) specifies that education is ‘free at all stages within the Union’. Public schools segregate male and female students at all levels of schooling except in kindergarten; however in 2018, the Ministry of Education began applying mixed gender classes allowing the mixing of boys and girls in Grades 1 to 4.

Public schools make up 52% of all schools in the country’s K-12 system: 657 public schools compared to 600 private schools in the country (2020 data, p.29). In 2020 the number of students attending public schools was 286,550 students (49% male and 51% female) and an additional 8,505 students attended technical schools.

The Emirati School

In 2017, the Ministry of Education developed a comprehensive national school framework with the aim of adopting international standard specifications, called The Emirati School. The Emirati School represents the National Education System in the UAE and is designed to include all aspects of public education such as smart learning, quality and monitoring, varied learning paths and evaluation amongst others. All public and private schools offering the Ministry of Education curriculum follow the Emirati School Model in order to operate under a standardized framework and benefit from international best practices. The Emirati School model is composed of an early childhood phase followed by three stages which correspond to the three levels in the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED). A range of academic and technical/vocational streams are offered at the secondary level, which can be chosen based on students’ abilities and preferences.

Academic Streams

The academic track at the secondary level offers three streams; an elite, advanced, and general stream, which enable students to study advanced scientific subjects, major in various sciences, engineering and medicine, and study humanities and applied sciences respectively.

Vocational and Technical Education

Students pursuing a vocational and technical education at the secondary level can follow an Advanced Technical or General Technical track. The Applied Technology High school for example offers applied technology education which provides students with academic and technical skills through a practical context.


These are specialized secondary schools that are offered at the third cycle whereby students can pursue careers that focus on their special interest or talents. A number of specialized academies exist including the Sports Science Academy, Creative Arts Academy, Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Aircraft Maintenance Academy, The Academy of Health Sciences and the Emergency Services Training Academy amongst others.

Non-state managed, state schools

The Department of Knowledge and Education (ADEK) in Abu Dhabi introduced Charter schools as a third educational model in addition to the existing public and private schools. The model aims to promote the strategic partnership and exchange of expertise between the public and private sectors and to support the UAE national agenda to create a sustainable, knowledge-based economy. These charter schools are managed by private operators and offer American-based curriculum to public school students who are based in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. This model initially targets kindergarten students and students of grades 1 to 5. ADEK intends to introduce more classes as students progress in their educational journey. As of 2021, 12 schools have been established with approximately 15,000 enrolled students.

Non-state funded, state schools

This form of school does not exist in the UAE as all public schools are funded by the state.

2.2 Non-state education provision

Independent, non-state schools

Private schools are the most common term used for independent non-state schools in the UAE and they can be managed by private individuals, corporations, or associations (for-profit or non-profit) and funded through student fees. In 2020, private schools made up 48% of all schools in the country’s K-12 system, 600 private schools compared to 657 public schools in the country (2020 data, p.29). This overall percentage varies across the seven emirates and is by far the highest in Dubai with 89% of students enrolled in this sector. The private school sector offers students and parents the choice of many different curricula such as the UK, US, Indian, UAE Ministry of Education (MoE), International Baccalaureate (IB), French and German amongst others. In fact, in Dubai there are 18 different curricula on offer and a total number of 215 private schools.

Many private school chains operate in the UAE, ranging from large global chains such as Nord Anglia as well as branches of established school brands (such as Cranleigh, Brighton College) alongside other private operators such as GEMS and Taaleem. In addition, there are also foreign non-state schools that were opened under bilateral governmental agreements between the United Arab Emirates and foreign countries and diplomatic missions. These schools are subject to the same laws as other non-state schools, such as the 2008 Cabinet Resolution 29, but cater primarily to nationals from their respective countries.

State funded (government-aided), non-state schools

Dubai Schools Project

A new initiative, Dubai Schools was introduced to enrich Dubai’s educational system through an agreement that creates the framework for a public-private sector partnership between the Dubai Government and the Taaleem Educational Operator. The new model prepares students to lead and innovate and make contributions to building the nation’s future by integrating a global curriculum and developing the educational and life skills of students with a focus on Emirati values and the Arabic language.

The schools initially cater for students from pre-school to Grade 4 and follow an American curriculum.

Abu Dhabi Education Partnership Schools (EPS)

The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) started implementing the Education Partnership Schools (EPS) programme, a project that creates a third educational model which also focuses on the partnership between the public and private sectors. The project aims at building a new generation that copes with future and scientific developments which will enable them to keep up with the rapid changes in technology and innovation.

The responsibility of educational and administrative supervision for the first phase of the project from kindergartens to Cycle One are assigned to a number of leading private sector operators. This first phase of EPS is set to provide 15,000 seats across 12 public schools, nine of which are based in Abu Dhabi City.

Contracted, non-state schools

No information was found.

2.3 Other types of schools


The 2014 Ministerial Decree 820 (Article 14) on student registration places the onus on guardians to ensure their children continue to pursue compulsory education in accordance with the law and issued decrees. In this regard, some provision is made for the homeschooling of children between grades 7 and 12. Expatriates can homeschool freely, as compulsory education laws only apply to citizens of the Emirates. For parents who want to register their child back in a private school after a period of homeschooling, the Ministry of Education requires that the documentation of two years of schooling and a letter of transfer is provided.

Market contracted (Voucher schools)

No information was found.

Unregistered/Unrecognised schools

No information was found.

  1. Governance and regulations

The Ministry of Education directly oversees non-state education in the Northern Emirates, which include Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain. In Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, this authority is delegated to Emirate-level entities that have been granted the right to regulate the non-state sector locally on behalf of the Ministry of Education. In Abu Dhabi, this authority is the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), established through the 2008 Cabinet Resolution 29. In Dubai, this authority is the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), established through the 2006 Law 30 and the 2005 Executive Council Decree 11. In Sharjah, this authority is the Sharjah Private Education Authority (SPEA) that was established by the 2018 Emiri Decree 45. This division of responsibility for regulating the non-state sector between local entities and the Ministry of Education applies to both pre- and post-secondary education.

The Ministry of Education as well as the local Emirate level authorities are largely responsible for the governance and supervision of the early childhood care and education (ECCE) institutions; however, in parallel, a few ministries undertake the protection of children at the federal level, including the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Health and Prevention, and the Ministry of Community Development.

For higher education, the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) which operates under the Ministry of Education is responsible for regulating both public and private higher institutions in its capacity as the UAE Federal Government Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

3.1 Regulations by distinct levels of education

In 2021, 1242 nurseries existed across the United Arab Emirates, of which 38% were public nurseries and 62% were private nurseries. The Ministry of Education which oversees the regulations of private institutions in the Northern Emirates is responsible for regulating and licensing early childhood and care institutions in these areas. These procedures are specified in the Ministerial Resolution No. 457 of 2017 regarding standards and requirements for licensing new standalone nurseries (standalone nurseries are those not attached to a specific government body or institution) and include the terms of the academic plan, requirements concerning child safety and protection, health, nutrition and hygiene, indoor and outdoor environment, as well as the required ratio of children to caregivers (Articles 3 and 4).


Licensing, registration and approval: A licensing application to establish a nursery must be submitted to the Ministry of Education or the relevant educational authority which entails adhering to the necessary terms, conditions and documents required for obtaining the initial approval, the nursery license and the activity permit. In the Northern Emirates, the process of obtaining a license involves three phases with the investor dealing directly with the Ministry of Education. The first phase involves obtaining an initial approval (No objection certificate) by submitting the application which includes an academic plan and obtaining an initial approval for the building. The second phase involves obtaining the approvals of specific authorities such as the municipality and civil defense, facilitating a site visit from the MOE representative to obtain final approvals for the buildings, and submitting approvals for the nursery manager. After completion of these approvals a license for the new nursery is then issued. The final phase involves obtaining an economic department license, applying for work permits for staff, seeking approval for advertisements followed by a final visit from an MOE representative to receive an approval to operate (Nurseries Investors Guide, First Release, MOE).

At the Emirate level, the educational authorities are responsible for overseeing all initiatives that undertake the development and regulation of nurseries. The Department of Education and Knowledge in Abu Dhabi for example states that it is the issuing authority responsible for new nurseries’ licenses as well as the renewal of existing licenses. Similarly, in Dubai, the 2020 Executive Council Resolution 35 (Article 10) states that the KHDA will oversee the work of childhood centers such as issuing initial approvals and permits, approve curricula, and education fees.

Financial operation

Profit-making: Nurseries are typically for-profit businesses and whilst they can set their own tuition fees, certain considerations need to be made in line with the Ministerial Decree No. 57 of 2016 on the Methodology of Organising Nursery Fees. These requirements include establishing a Nursery Tuition Fee Committee to determine the fees charged in nurseries, which further aims, among other things, to ensure that the costs charged by nurseries align with the services provided.

Taxes and subsidies: No information was found.

Quality of teaching and learning

Curriculum and education standards: Nurseries are intended to promote the social, health, and mental development of children under the age of 4. The Ministry of Education identifies essential internal and external educational pillars that focus on exploration, reading, role-playing, building and design, creative expression, technology, and mathematics. Children are expected to have the freedom to choose from the available learning opportunities and to be provided with a set of educational resources to support the achievement of specified outcomes for example, through the provision of reading books and bags to support language development in both Arabic and English. The Ministerial Resolution No. 644 of 2020 regarding early childhood care and education policy emphasizes the provision of a unified curriculum framework for early childhood based on the integration of different developmental aspects and unified values. It specifies that curricula in early childhood need to ensure that there is a clear graduation in skills that link between kindergarten levels (first and second) and the first grade.

The various Emirate level entities also have specific requirements with regards to curriculum. For example, in the Emirate of Dubai, all nurseries must further ‘implement the curricula and education programmes approved by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’ (Executive Council Resolution No. 35, 2020, Article 13).

Teaching profession: The Ministerial Resolution No. 457 of 2017 regarding standards and requirements for licensing new standalone nurseries states that primary caretakers (teachers, coordinators) are required to have a university-level degree in early childhood or education. Alternatively, those with another specialisation are required to receive a professional and verified certificate in caring for and educating children in the early stages of development. Workers with only high school diplomas must have obtained a professional certificate in educating and caring for children in the early stages of development or must have at least two years of experience in caring for and educating young children (Article 6). In sum, a total of at least 40% of primary caretakers in the nursery must have a university degree in education.

Equitable access

Fee-setting: The conditions and rules for increasing nursery fees span a number of reasons, including improving the quality of services provided to children, improving technological facilities, career development (of employees), health conditions and the like (Ministerial Decree 57, 2016, Article 3-6).

Admission selection and processes: Admission and selection criteria are not specified in local or national regulations.

Policies for vulnerable groups: The Ministerial Resolution No. (647) of 2020 on the policy of inclusive education outlines the need for achieving high-quality inclusive education for students of determination in public schools and private schools that follow the curriculum of the Ministry. At the Emirate level, the various authorities have also placed policies in place for vulnerable groups. In Dubai, (Executive Council Resolution 35, 2020, Article 3) intends to ‘develop the educational and learning abilities and skills of children with special educational needs and children who are persons with disabilities’ in all ECCE institutions.

Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability

Inspection: Early childhood education institutions are subject to the monitoring and control process by the Ministry and the educational authority who oversee inspections and quality assurance procedures (p. 21). There are two types of inspections of early childhood education institutions that can take place: general compliance inspections and targeted compliance inspections. The former focuses on ‘ensuring the compliance of various ECEI with all policies, codes, regulations and rules, including the inputs and processes of education and quality of provided services.’ The latter, on the other hand, is conducted ‘in response to the outcome of a general compliance audit, or investigation of any complaint or observation, or as directed by the Ministry’s concerned officials’ (p. 19).

Evaluation and Quality Assurance: The Ministry or Educational Authority are also responsible for setting unified standards for evaluating the quality of performance of early childhood institutions. The Ministry submits an annual report on the results of the evaluation of early childhood institutions to the Council of Ministers based on evaluation reports received from educational authorities.

Child assessment: The Ministerial Resolution No. 644 of 2020 for early childhood care and education policy also establishes that procedures for early childhood assessment and the criteria for expected development for each stage need to be laid out clearly. Several types of knowledge and skills are assessed at the preschool level such as patterns of thinking, performance skills, product development capabilities, emotional growth, relationships with other children, understanding and communication and movement and coordination.

Sanctions: If the Ministry of Education discovers through its inspection reports that the nursery is violating one of the articles of the law or a ministerial decree or is harming the children in any religious, social, physical, or mental capacity, the Ministry of Education will warn the nursery of this violation. It will further ask the nursery to stop engaging in these violations within a specific time frame. If the nursery continues with the violation or repeats this offence a second time, the Ministry of Education will warn the body again about the need to remove/stop engaging in this violation within seven days. If the nursery does not take action, the minister will issue a decision to close the institution for 15 days (Federal Law 5, 1983, Article 13). In addition, keeping children that are older than the stipulated age is also a violation of the law as well as using the nursery for purposes other than that which is permitted by the license (Article 18).

If a nursery continues with its violation or repeats an offence a third time, it is granted seven days to discontinue its activities. In addition, the minister can issue a decision to close the nursery if there is proof that the nursery or its administration are engaging in activities that are against the law or (public) morals (Article 14).


Registration and approval: To register and get approval to open a private school, prospective private schools in the Northern Emirates (Emirates of Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah), must apply for Ministry of Education licensure through the service provided on its website, ensuring that they have adhered to the requirements, conditions and criteria stipulated. Private schools in the free zones need to apply directly to the relevant free zone and are usually provided with offer services to guide owners through the process.

Licensing Conditions: The conditions required for obtaining a license are laid out in the Federal Decree-Law No. (18) of 2020 regarding private education. These include applying through submitting an application for obtaining a license with the Ministry or the relevant Educational Authority, which includes the school’s academic and financial plans. The school must also ensure that its work is limited to educational activities, that it is in accordance with the standard requirements specified for the location and building of the private school and that it has appointed a principal for the school (Article 7).

In Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, private schools directly consult with the authority overseeing private schools in the relevant Emirate (Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), and the Sharjah Private Education Authority) which specify the local laws detailing the registration and approval process. Both ADEK and KHDA require that license applicants provide a completed electronic license application with supporting documents that meet the relevant requirements as set out in the regulations. For example, the 2007 Executive Council Resolution 2 (Article 5 and 7) stipulates that to open a private school in Dubai, an ‘initial approval’ is needed before an educational permit is granted and that any educational activity cannot be conducted without first obtaining this Educational Permit (Article 7). To obtain initial approval, the applicant must have, full legal capacity, be of good conduct and repute, prove solvency, submit an academic plan, and provide a curriculum approved by the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (Article 5). The initial approval is valid for one year, during which, the school needs to hire a principal and can begin its marketing activities as well as obtain all approvals for the school building. Once all these requirements have been met an educational permit needs to be obtained.

Both the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and the Sharjah Private Education Authority have established comparable mechanisms to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority for their approval processes. In Abu Dhabi, these are specified in the 2013 Executive Council Resolution 26 and the 2014/15 Private Schools Policy and Guidance Manual. In Sharjah, these are specified in the 2019 Administrative Resolution 19.

Financial operation

Profit-making: Private schools may register as either a for-profit or non-profit school and they are responsible for designing their initial fee structure. Schools in the Northern Emirates need to ensure that they receive approval from the Ministry of Education for the fee structure that they have designed (Article 13). In the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah the relevant educational authorities are responsible for approving school fees, together with payment schedules and procedures before they can be announced and collected.

Taxes and subsidies: Non-state schools are generally for-profit institutions and do not receive financial subsidies from the government.

Quality of teaching and learning

Curriculum and education standards: The Federal Decree-Law No. (18) of 2020 regarding private education (Article 14) states that upon licensing, a private school is authorized to apply for only one educational curriculum (for example follow the US or UK curriculum). After the approval of the Ministry or Educational Authority, the school may then add another curriculum (Article 14). The private school must adhere to the curriculum that it has submitted in its license application and must obtain approval for any changes it wishes to make. Private schools that have adopted the curriculum of the Ministry of Education must adhere to the regulations and standards that are applicable to public schools. In addition, a private school that applies an educational curriculum other than that of the Ministry must include in its curricula the subjects of Islamic education, Arabic language, Social Studies, and Moral Education that have been prepared by the Ministry of Education. In all cases, it is prohibited to include curricula that has any violation of the laws of the state, or the culture of society, its Islamic and social values, and national constants, or anything that contains what calls for the encouragement of violence, racism, or strife among the members of society.

The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, and the Sharjah Private Education Authority have similar requirements for private school curricula.

Textbooks and learning materials: The Ministry of Education issues lists of approved books from which public and private schools can choose to use for their students’ instruction. This aims to ensure that textbooks’ content is culturally appropriate and in line with the values and policies of the State. Cultural review and content appropriateness are the responsibility of both the publishing house and the school using these textbooks. Schools of different communities using their home curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education or Educational Boards in the original country shall be responsible for the approved textbooks. These schools need to ensure that they are using textbooks that are appropriate for students’ grade level and age.

Teaching profession: The Federal Decree-Law No. (18) of 2020 regarding private education states that schools are required to appoint qualified teachers and administrative and technical workers. In addition, schools are required to create special files for each of its employees attaching their academic qualifications, experience certificates, work contract, and annual reports which include their performance appraisals. The private school must also comply with the procedures, instructions, and standards related to the appointment of its employees.

Teacher Licensing: Private schools are also required to ensure that professional licenses for teachers and principals are obtained. This is conducted through the Educational Professions Licensure System which was launched by the Ministry of Education and aims to ensure a high quality of education through high standards in pedagogy and subject matter specialization. There are three types of educational professions license: a Teacher License, School Leadership License, and School Professions License. The Teachers Licensing System (TLS) establishes the process for teachers to attain a license which makes teachers eligible to work in both government and private schools. The license is obtained by passing two tests, one in pedagogy and the other being a subject-matter specialization test. All teachers should register in the TLS when registration is announced by the Professional Licensing Department. In order for private school employees to complete the registration process, they must enter the registration PIN code, which is provided to school principals. Registered education professionals can then book the tests through the system. In the case that the exam criteria are not met by the test-taker, the system then introduces training courses that are customized based on the level shown in the exam to achieve the required outcomes.

Teachers who already have an international teacher license, will have their documents reviewed by a professional committee to decide whether the license is recognized. A specific list of recognized licenses can be found in the important documents section.

Other safety measures and COVID-19: An Operation of Educational Establishments during the Pandemic: Protocols & Procedures was published to outline the protocols, requirements, and precautionary measures that all educational establishments in the UAE should follow with the re-opening of educational establishments to achieve a safe, healthy, and stimulating learning environment. The General Framework for the Re-opening of Educational Establishments during the Pandemic in the UAE specifies the safety measures in the environment of educational establishments, the health and safety requirements, precautionary measures for transportation services, implementation of the approved precautionary measures for support services, and application of the approved protocols for events and activities. Awareness-raising and training with strategic partners and precautionary measures taken by nurses at school clinics are also part of the framework. These measures are also supplemented by periodic checks and vaccination as well as constant monitoring and follow-up measures by the control sector.

Equitable access

Fee-setting: Private schools are funded by individuals through students’ tuition fees. Fees can only be increased through the approval of the relevant authority. ADEK requires demonstrating an improvement in the overall effectiveness of the school for fees to be increased and KHDA requires that fees follow the School Fee Framework which was created for the regulation and implementation of tuition fees. Additionally, in Dubai the fee framework can be applied in general to all private schools that have been operating for more than three years. Schools will be eligible to apply to increase fees according to the quality of education as assessed by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau (DSIB) and the Educational Cost Index (ECI) as calculated by Dubai Statistics Centre (DSC).

Admission selection and processes: Admission and selection criteria are regulated by individual private schools, however the Educational Authorities in the various Emirates have placed some regulations to ensure equitable access. ADEK for example adopts specific requirements for student enrolment in private schools in Abu Dhabi based on approved policies and procedures. This includes that all students are entitled to apply to any private school regardless of their race, ethnicity, or gender. They also specify that prospective Parents/Guardians are allowed to visit the school prior to registration. Similarly, KHDA requires that private schools provide information on their admission policy such as the criteria to be used for admitting students as well as a detailed rationale for any assessment of students’ academic ability linked to the admission process. In addition, arrangements for the admission and support for all students including students with special education needs are to be provided.

Policies for vulnerable groups: The Ministerial Resolution No. (647) of 2020 on the policy of inclusive education outlines the requirements for high-quality inclusive education in public schools and private schools that follow the curriculum of the Ministry of Education. These include developing joint standards with stakeholders and providing equal opportunities for the education for students of determination, creating a common understanding among all employees and partners about inclusive education, unifying the programs related to educating students of determination and providing them with appropriate services and an educational environment (the shared learning environment) that enhances their opportunity of learning. In addition, it seeks to develop a communication plan and disseminate the concepts of inclusive education to raise community awareness. The Emirate level authorities have also implemented a number of initiatives such as KHDA’s publication of the Advocating Inclusive Education: A Guide for Parents in order to provide parents with an understanding of their parental rights, responsibilities and opportunities when navigating the system of inclusive education and to empower them to become effective advocates for their children.

Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability

School board: The 2008 Cabinet Resolution 29 does not specify details regarding school boards. At the Emirate level however, ADEK stipulates in Article 21 that each school should have an effective Board of Trustees. Articles 23 and 24 also provide extensive detail on the appointment of the Board of Trustees as well as the formation of their sub-committees. In addition, SPEA specifies that each private school needs to form a board of trustees, a parents’ council, and a student council.

Reporting requirements: Reporting requirements are specified in Policy 32 (Article 37) of the Organising Regulations in the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge manual indicating that private schools shall maintain reports and documentation as listed in Policies 33 and 34.

Inspection and Quality Assurance: The Federal Decree-Law No. (18) of 2020 regarding private education states that the private school is subject to a process of inspection by the Ministry of Education or the relevant Educational Authority to ensure that schools adhere to the provisions of the regulation, rules, and related procedures. It also indicates that the commitment of the private school to the standards of control and control is a prerequisite for its continuation in its activity. The Ministry and the Educational Authorities are also responsible for the setting of unified standards for evaluating the quality of performance of private schools (Article 28).

Inspection and Quality Assurance at the Emirate Level: Private schools in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah are subject to inspections by the relevant Educational Authority. For example, to ensure that private schools in Dubai operate in accordance with the highest quality standards and in accordance with KHDA regulations, they are subject to regular visits from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s Dubai School Inspection Bureau (DSIB) and KHDA’s Regulations and Permits Commission (RPC). Whilst the compliance team ensures the school’s adherence to KHDA standards described in the educational permit, the DSIB team assesses teaching and learning, student outcomes and other aspects of the school’s performance. Schools are expected to provide KHDA teams with the necessary information and cooperation to make the visits a success. The DSIB School Inspection Framework details the quality indicators used in inspections.

In Sharjah, SPEA’s Inspection Division for Educational Monitoring is concerned with the implementation of various inspection reviews according to the terms and indicators of official procedures. It undertakes inspection visits to private educational institutions to follow up on the implementation of requirements as established by the inspection team during the inspection review, and to follow up on corrective plans developed by private educational institutions to ensure continued compliance and quality. The Monitoring Division prepares a formal report on each visit.

ADEK implements the Irtiqaa Framework for the Inspection of Private Schools, which entails a combination of criteria (performance criteria, evaluation criteria, and self-evaluation) used by inspectors to assess the performance of private schools in Abu Dhabi. This is then followed by a detailed explanation of the strengths and weaknesses of each school, as well as improvement plans that may include workshops to help low achieving schools enhance the quality of their education and reach the level required by the criteria of the program.

Student assessment: The Federal Decree-Law No. (18) of 2020 states that the private school that applies the Ministry’s curriculum is bound by the list of assessment and examinations that apply to the public school. A private school that adopts an educational curriculum other than the Ministry’s curriculum is obligated to obtain prior approval from the Ministry or the Educational Authority to implement assessment and examination procedures and systems.

Private schools must also comply with the implementation of standardized and diagnostic tests, as well as national and international tests that are imposed by the Ministry or the Educational Authority (Article 16).

In 2017, the Ministry of Education launched the first comprehensive national assessment system known as the Emirates Standardized Test (EmSAT) which is a national system of standardized computer-based tests, based on standards for measuring and evaluating student performance in the UAE. The test is mandatory for all grade 12 students who are UAE nationals, non-Emirati students from private schools affiliated to the Ministry of Education curriculum, and all UAE nationals and non-nationals wishing to complete their studies at public or private universities in the UAE. The EmSAT test evaluates the skills, language, and subject knowledge of students. In addition to the EmSAT taken at the end of secondary education, EmSAT Advantage tests are a set of tests that are held annually for students in grades 4, 6, 8 and 10 to track the development of their skills in Arabic, English, Mathematics and Science in accordance with national standards. These tests will also be implemented at selected private schools.

Schools are also required to participate in international benchmarking tests such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS).

Student assessment at the Emirate level: ADEK requires private schools to outline, implement and periodically review their own assessment policies. These policies should include details about how teachers assess students’ progress through continuous assessment, formal tests and examinations as well as details on how teachers use the results of these assessments to support the teaching and learning process and enhance its effectiveness.

Both KHDA and SPEA have similar policies, for example the KHDA Executive Council Resolution No. (2) of 2017 Regulating Private Schools in the Emirate of Dubai states that a private school which adopts the UAE general education curriculum must comply with the examination calendar applicable to public schools and that a private school which adopts a curriculum other than the UAE general education curriculum must comply with the procedures and regulations governing the examination calendar approved by the KHDA (Article 20). In addition, KHDA also requires schools to have an assessment plan to assist schools in meeting their assigned targets.

Diplomas and degrees: The 2019 Ministerial Decision 199 describes the Equivalence System of Private School Certificates in the Transitional Period Until the End of the School Year 2020/21. Equivalent Certificates of Completion of Secondary School are issued to private schools that do not apply the Ministry curriculum, according to the conditions stated in Article 4. These specify that the educational system and curriculum of the private school should be recognized and licensed in the UAE, that the educational institution that awards the certificate should also be recognized in the UAE.

Sanctions: In the event that the violating school’s license is cancelled, the school is placed under financial and administrative supervision until the end of the school year after assigning someone to supervise it until the date of its closure mentioned in the ministerial decision. (Cabinet Resolution 29, 2008, Article 22).


In 2021, a total of 74 recognized public and private institutions existed in the UAE increasing from 54 institutions in 2010. This growth mainly occurred in the non-state sector. In 2020, there were 86,498 students enrolled in private (65.9%) compared to 44,816 students (34.1%) enrolled in public universities.

Driven by the National Higher Education Strategy 2030 which was launched in 2017, the higher education sector is regulated by the enforcement of licensing, approval, and quality assurance processes that are implemented by the Ministry of Education and its Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) nationally, and the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, and Sharjah Private Education Authority locally (in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah).

The National Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) classifications of Higher Education Institutions (HEI)s include federal, local government-supported, semi-local government-supported and private universities. The regulations for licensure and accreditation cover all institutions of higher education in the United Arab Emirates, including all federal and non-federal colleges and universities and branch campuses of foreign entities offering postsecondary regular, theoretical, practical, or applied curricula leading to graduate or undergraduate degrees, diplomas, or certificates of one year or more in duration.


Registration and approval: As with other stages of the educational system, non-state universities in the Northern Emirates coordinate directly with the Ministry of Education, in this case through the Commission for Academic Accreditation (CAA) to obtain licensure. Non-state institutions located in the free zones of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah coordinate directly with the regulation requirements of their Free Zone (For example the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone – Academic Zone (RAKEZ AZ) . Institutions located in these free zones are eligible to apply for licensure and subsequent accreditation of their programs from the CAA (p.12) but are not required to do so.

Initial Institutional Licensure and application process: The process of Initial Institutional Licensure (IIL) is described in the Procedural Manual for Initial Institutional Licensure (PMIL). This process requires the institution to prepare an application and submit a set of required documents that address the Standards for Institutional Licensure (SIL). HEIs must ensure that they meet the requirements of these seven Standards which cover the way in which the HEI operates and is managed. These standards are 1.Governance and Management 2. Quality Assurance 3. Research and Scholarly Activities 4. Health, Safety, and Environment 5. Fiscal Resources, Financial Management, and Budgeting 6. Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure 7. Community Engagement. Once an institutional review has confirmed that the SIL are met, the HEI will receive the MoE's license and be admitted to the National Register.

Additional Requirements at the Emirate Level: Emirates such as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, have put additional mechanisms in place for the establishment of non-state institutions in their Emirates. Documentation that the proposed institution has the approval of the relevant authority in the Emirate in which the institution is to be located is essential.

ADEK’s authorization procedures sequentially precede CAA’s (re)-licensing and initial accreditation procedures for new HEIs, new programs, existing HEIs and substantive changes. An ADEK No Objection Letter is therefore a prerequisite for applicants applying to the CAA.

Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority specifies two options for a HEI’s market entry. The first option involves establishing a Higher Education Provider Branch Campus of an internationally accredited higher education institution. This is only permitted inside Dubai Free Zones and comes under the direct authority of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority; the second option is to establish a private higher education institution (HEP Private) with local accreditation from the Commission for Academic

Accreditation and institutional licensure through the Ministry of Education inside or outside the Dubai Free Zones.

Financial operation

Profit-making: The relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Education’s CAA and the Emirate level Educational Authorities do not impose limitations on the profit-making of universities, however they have specific standards on the financial management and reporting and some authorities (For example ADEK) may require the HEI to justify the factors informing its tuition fees and the extent to which it takes into consideration the needs of the customers and the market while setting tuition fees. The CAA also provides additional Stipulations to the Standards that show the fiscal resources, financial management and budgeting requirements that the HEI has to adhere to. These specify that students must be informed of all fees, that the institution strictly adheres to its published fee schedules including the limits on any annual increases to fees. The institution must also provide the CAA, as requested, with all budgets, financial statements, reports, and external audits.

Universities are free to choose their models (for- or non-profit) upon market entry. For example, the American University of Sharjah is a private, non-profit institution whereas the American University in Dubai is a for- profit university.

Taxes and subsidies: Local government-supported universities rely on total financial support from the local government while in the case of semi-local government-supported universities, the local government provides financial support to cover part of the expenditure.

Quality of teaching and learning

Accreditation and education standards: The Commission for Academic Accreditation’s (CAA) Procedure Manual for Initial Institutional Licensure (2019) mentions that each academic programme must be accredited before the institution may admit students to it or offer its curriculum (p. 14). The CAA evaluates the program’s structure, its constituent courses, the requirements for specialist faculty and appropriate teaching and learning resources.

At the Emirate level, quality assurance frameworks are also in place to ensure alignment with local priorities. For example, ADEK describes the two quality assurance approaches (those required by the CAA and its own quality assurance program) as complementary. It explains that the CAA’s quality assurance framework looks at the extent to which the HEI or program is fit for the purpose/mission it has been established for, while the ADEK quality assurance framework specifically looks at the fitness-of-purpose in relation to Abu Dhabi’s strategic priorities. Thus, all the proposals submitted to ADEK for authorization of new HEI and new programs should show alignment to the socio-economic, cultural needs and strategic priorities of Abu Dhabi.

The Knowledge and Human Development Authority has also established the University Quality Assurance International Board (UQAIB) which is a board of leading international higher education quality assurance experts to ensure that the quality of Higher Education Providers (HEP) is in line with both International an the Emirate standards. UQAIB also validates the academic programmes of HEP Branches for the purpose of Programme Registration.

Teaching profession: The Commission for Academic Accreditation’s Procedure Manual for Initial Institutional Licensure 2019 (Section 3) states that an institution shall have policies that define its understanding of the nature and scope of scholarly activity, including professional development and the development of learning and teaching approaches appropriate to higher education. Furthermore, universities are required to have a quality assurance unit in place that, among other things, oversees teaching practices as part of the university’s academic responsibility (Section 2.3).

Equitable access

Fee-setting: The Procedure Manual for Initial Institutional Licensure states that the institution is required to publish a list of tuition and all other fees in its Catalog/student guide or equivalent, and in other relevant publications (Annex 4). Students must be informed of all fees and the published fee schedule must include a maximum annual limit for any fee increase (Subsection 5.6.4). Furthermore, the institution must strictly adhere to its published fee schedules, including the limits on any annual increases to fees (Subsection 5.6.5).

Admission selection and processes: Admission to universities is subject to each university’s specific criteria and admission policies. The American University in Sharjah (AUS) for example specifies that students must submit an application that includes their official secondary school certificate as well as official grade reports of the last three secondary school classes that has been certified by the appropriate authorities. The university’s website also provides a list of some common certificates and the corresponding minimum levels of performance required for accepting an application to AUS. In addition, the university indicates that all students must follow the UAE Ministry of Education’s requirement in obtaining a certificate of equivalency for their secondary education certificate.

Quality assurance, monitoring and accountability

Board: The 2019 Governance and Management of the PMIIL (Section 1, Standard 1) generally recommends that a board is established. However, subsection 1.10 on Branch Campuses of Foreign Institutions notes that it is a requirement for branch campuses to establish a local advisory board to include representatives of the United Arab Emirates community, who will advise the senior administrators of the branch campus and the senior administrators of the parent institution (p. 27).

Inspection: The CAA stipulates that as part of an initial institutional licensing process, the entity will conduct an on-site inspection of the temporary or permanent facility of a university. Following that, special visits by the CAA may be conducted to licensed institutions. These visits may focus on specific areas of institutional activity, or concerns regarding noncompliance in areas identified in previous reviews or may be a result of feedback from stakeholders across higher education. Where appropriate, notice of dates and preparatory documentation requirements will be given to institutions. Institutions may appeal decisions made by the Commission.

Local authorities such as the Knowledge and Human Development Authority also have additional regulations concerning the requirements and procedures that are adopted. For example, the 2013 Administrative Resolution 1 (Article 19) on regulating Higher Education Institutions in the Free Zones in the Emirate of Dubai stipulates that an institution under the control and supervision of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority will be subject to inspection visits. More specifically, it may inspect the files, records, and textbooks of the institution in question. The educational activities and programmes provided may also be examined (Article 8).

Student assessment: The CAA lays down detailed requirements in its Standards for Institutional Licensure and Program Accreditation to ensure that institutions use a variety of appropriate assessment tools that enable them to acquire the specified knowledge, skills, and competencies to meet the specified learning outcomes. Additionally, institutions need to ensure they implement methods for the moderation and assessment of student work as well as have clear, written guidance, for faculty, staff, and students on assessment methodologies, tools, and grading in order to ensure comparability of academic standards and consistency with the approaches to teaching, learning and assessment.

Diplomas and degrees: The United Arab Emirates National Qualifications Authority (NQA) has developed the Qualifications Framework Emirates (QFEmirates) which requires that all institutions providing higher education in the United Arab Emirates align their credentials (degrees) with the QFEmirates. The CAA helps guide institutions and monitor their compliance with the provisions of QFEmirates. For example, in its 2019 Procedure Manual for Initial Institutional Licensure (Section 6, Standard 10) the CAA, requires that programmes have titles which are appropriate and consistent with the QFEmirates (Subsection 6.1.2). It also recommends that UAE institutions follow the practice typical of the English-speaking world in naming qualifications. For example, Bachelor's degree (QFEmirates Level 7) or Master’s degree (QFEmirates Level 9).

Sanctions: The 2019 Procedure Manual for Initial Institutional Licensure 2019 indicates that specific sanctions related to non-compliance with the criteria of the Standards, when identified through interim CAA visits, are appended to the Standards (see Supplementary Guidance to the Standards). In addition, (Subsection 1.10.11) stipulates that branch campuses of foreign institutions shall provide the Commission with a financial guarantee for the operation of the institution, including a plan for and support of a teach-out arrangement should the branch campus be forced to close, or a programme be discontinued (p. 28).

Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET): Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is an important component of postsecondary education in the UAE which focuses on preparing students or apprentices for specific trades, crafts, and professional careers at various levels though training and industry collaborations. Vocational training covers professional positions in engineering, accountancy, nursing, medicine, architecture, pharmacy, law, retail, tourism, information technology and other industries.

The National Qualifications Authority (NQA) sets guidelines and standards and through its National Occupational Skills Standards (NOSS), it sets the standards for education providers, industry, and business sectors in jointly designing and delivering curricula and training programs. Training providers use NOSS to inform the skills to be included in the curricula. Registered Training Providers (RTP) are those organisations that have been approved by the NQA and are in compliance with NQA standards to deliver training programs. An RTP can be private, semi-government, or a government education entity such as schools, colleges, institutes of technology or universities, adult and community organisations, commercial and enterprise training providers.

The Vocational Education and Training Awards Commission (VETAC) which operates under the National Qualifications Authority was set up to manage and coordinate the vocational, technical, and professional education and training sector. VETAC’s mandate includes the development of a quality assured modern national vocational education and training system with improved labor-market integration.

At the Emirate level, several authorities also support the coordination of VET activity. The Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical Vocational Education and Training (ACVET) through its Licensing and Accreditation Department Functions lays down the requirements and standards to regulate all the technical and vocational education and training providers in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. In addition, it engages the private sector in supplying the UAE labor market with a skilled workforce that is adaptable to the changing demands of employment.

Licensing services are provided through an automated online system. In Dubai, through the Knowledge and Human Development Authority similar arrangements are in place to coordinate Emirate wide Vocational education and training (VET) activities, encompassing the Dubai free trade education zones. Other Emirates have also implemented suitable mechanisms to coordinate local activity.

3.2 Supplementary private tutoring

Private tutoring which is defined as the ‘extra coaching in academic and examinable subjects that is given to students outside school hours for remuneration’ (Foondun 2002) can take various forms such as one-on-one tutoring, small groups, large classrooms, virtual classes, and lessons in institutes amongst others. In the UAE, a study found that 27% of parents indicated that their children were privately tutored during the 2017/18 school year. As this trend is on the rise in the UAE, it has prompted a focus on exploring the reasons for this growing demand and understanding the regulations required for private tutoring in order to support students’ learning. The Regional Center for Educational Planning for example provides several policy recommendations for the future regulations on private tutoring in the UAE.


Private tutoring services are provided through individuals or licensed private institutes. Using private tutoring services is considered illegal if it is attained from an individual who does not have a valid work permit as it violates the 1980 Federal Law No. 8 (the employment law). Recent developments in the UAE employment law however have resulted in the introduction of new types of sponsorships that can be obtained by private individuals. For example, foreign nationals will be allowed to live and work in the UAE for a maximum period of 1 year under the Remote Work visa that entails self-sponsorship in line with terms and conditions issued with the visa. However, whether this will enable individual private tutors to provide tutoring legally will depend on the direction of regulation in this field.

The Ministry of Education oversees the registration of private institutions, except in Sharjah, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, where registration is overseen by the respective Educational Authorities in these Emirates. In Dubai, in order to acquire a training institute permit, applicants must submit a list of documents in different phases. This also includes submitting a list of courses they wish to teach and a training institution registration plan. In Abu Dhabi, acquiring a new training licence requires the applicant to submit a trade licence, partnership contract or memorandum of association of the company, and a registered logo.

Financial operation and quality

Several bodies are responsible for the regulating the training and educational institutes sector. The Vocational Education and Training Awards Commission (VETAC) is a supervisory and regulatory body at the federal level that was set up to manage and coordinate vocational, technical and professional education and training sector in the UAE, under the auspices of National Qualifications Authority. On the Emirate level, the Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical Vocational Education and Training (ACVET) in Abu Dhabi and the Qualifications and Awards in Dubai (QAD) are responsible for overseeing the quality of technical and vocational education and training institutes.

Teaching profession

There are no laws or policies that currently regulate private tutoring, although the Regional Center for Educational Planning proposed policy-oriented research to aid the Ministry of Education in regulating the practice. The study conducted in 2018 recommended implementing measures such as offering in-school tutoring programs after school hours in public schools, requiring tutors to obtain a private license, implementing a tutorial voucher system, and regulating costs amongst others.


This profile was reviewed by the Director of Education Policies (Ministry of Education). 

Last modified:

Tue, 23/08/2022 - 14:14