Opportunities in the Middle East Opportunities in the Middle East

Gulf States of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE):

  • Higher Education is expanding in the region due to government initiatives, to counteracting years of underinvestment. The organisation in Qatar responsible for Research and Development is run by the Qatar Foundation which is a government body. Her highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser is the chairwoman of the organisation and has committed to an investment of 2.8% GDP towards research and development as stated in the Qatar National vision 2030.
  • European and North American universities are also forming partnerships with local institutions while others are setting up private satellite campuses in the region. In Qatar there are indeed a number of satellite European and American universities such as University College London, Carnegie Mellon University, Texas A&M university, Georgetown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell University. University of Calgary just to name a few.
  • HE sector is new to the United Arab Emirates, and is highly commercialised with a strong emphasis on marketing activities. Universities tend to be small, but high-tech.
  • Qatar has one public university (pop. 27,000 students). Additionally, Education City outside Doha has multiple private international institutions (incl. 6 US branch campuses).
  • The United Arab Emirates University is the flagship national institution (pop. 15,000 students), although there are multiple private and international branch institutions here too, including Scottish and US campuses.
  • Enrolment in university courses in Qatar is low. The number of admissions is limited by the University. Only 18% of Qatari nationals are educated to degree level.
  • Research-intensive universities are few, but the market is open for early-careerist principally interested in teaching routes: timeshighereducation. The British University in Dubai is a research university, and therefore offers a more academic programme than many.
  • On learning and teaching culture, see: career profiles and summaries on jobs.ac.uk
  • The student demographic can be quite different to UK or US universities, with a predominantly female student-base. It is worth understanding some of the particular issues faced by Gulf universities - for example, there has been concern about high levels of unemployment amongst graduates from the HE sector in the region, especially amongst women, and about quality assurance. The expat population is mainly men-dominated which might be useful to know for women considering a move to Qatar.
  • Holders of Western PhD, including many expats from the region, historically dominate the HE sector’s jobs.
  • Teaching is in English.
  • There are more political and personal constraints than in the west, and institutions are not as strong or impersonal. There are also cultural differences. The main differences are the forbidden consumption of pork and alcohol in public places, the forbidden display of affection in public, the more modest dress code in public (no nude shoulders and knees). You need to have a lot of patience to work in the Middle East, everything takes so much longer here. And this is also true for research, from ordering to delivery can take up to 1 month. Getting your papers (residence visa, medical tests, driving license) in order will take a few weeks and so on.
  • Dubai, however, may offer an experience with greater academic freedom.
  • Salaries compare well with the UK, and there are other benefits (free accommodation, medical insurance, free flights, free private tuition for children). You can have some excellent expat packages but you need to be very clear about this. For example, free accommodation can be a hotel room, a serviced flat, an apartment or a villa so you need to be sure what this exactly means.
  • Also take in account that if you have a spouse or family it might take some time for them to be able to join you which can range from 2/3 months up to 6 months or longer. There is a long paper trail to be completed with compulsory medical tests.
  • There is a lot of potential in Qatar and there is a fantastic commitment from the government to invest in R&D.
  • However we are still at the starting line and it will take some time to get things running. If you are open minded and willing to experience another culture and have patience, it is worthwhile to try.


  • There are two large public universities – Bahrain University (14,500 students) and the Arabian Gulf University, in addition to private sector institutions; the proportion of the population enrolling on UG degrees is higher in Bahrain than elsewhere in the Gulf. The Kingdom is not as wealthy as other Gulf States.
  • Bahrain Vision 2030 is a strategy developed by the Bahrain government to improve economic growth, and focussing on education and human resources development: the provision of the Kingdom’s 16 private universities ought to be in line with this, though doubts have been raised about the quality of education provision in private institutions.
  • Religious and cultural freedom is reputedly important in Bahrain.
  • Historically, a proportion of Bahraini students (~15%) study in the UK, so links between student bodies may be good.

Saudi Arabia:

  • Saudi Arabia is the largest Gulf state.
  • King Saud University in Riyadh has a student population of 25,000. There are also many private institutions.
  • King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is a research-intensive institution, which has in the past collaborated with Imperial College London.
  • University lecturing roles may be found in accounting, finance and marketing. The system of learning is formal, theoretical, and delivered in lecture style.
  • Education here is not necessarily characteristic of the rest of the region. Cultural and gender role differences between western universities and Saudi institutions are marked.


  • HE has been expanding in Israel since the 1990s.
  • There are 7 institutions that carry out teaching and research: the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. The Open University teaches undergraduates in humanities, social sciences, business and natural sciences via distance learning.
  • Funding is predominantly from the state.
  • There are approximately 900 existing lecturer positions.
  • At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there are 400 current post-doc fellows


jobs.ac.uk (most universities in the region advertise through this site)