Higher Education in the Middle East

It was a great pleasure for my colleague Siân Jackson and me to be joined by Ivor McGettigan, partner at Mills & Reeve’s best friend firm in the Middle East, Al Tamimi & Company in our third webinar in our current series.  The series has focused on international strategy; this time we discussed the HE market in the Middle East and the scope for UK collaborations.  

Some key developments and opportunities in the Middle East

Ivor gave an overview of the position in a range of countries in the region.  In outline, the UAE has a highly developed HE market, but is also a substantial industrial hub with potential opportunities for business partnerships. 

By contrast Egypt has significant potential for growth in higher education, with a large young demographic within its overall population of 102 million and a strong cultural emphasis on education.  The Egyptian government requires its new universities to have a collaboration arrangement with a leading international institution, and the UK and Egypt have signed a memorandum of understanding to assist with the recognition of UK universities in Egypt.  Ivor has helped a number of UK universities enter the Egyptian market.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia has 80% of the student population among Gulf Cooperation Council member countries and has been opening its education sector to international partners.  It has invested heavily in research, particularly in the energy sector.

Some key aspects for collaborations in the Middle East

  • There is a rapid growth in the region.  There are significant opportunities for institutions and students to collaborate with the private sector and make use of this growth, for example through work placements.
  • During Covid, people weren’t studying abroad, and from a cultural perspective some Gulf parents prefer their children to study in their home country.
  • There are many similarities between all six Gulf countries, including their regulatory frameworks.
  • There are significant regulatory and information gathering requirements.
  • Regulators are typically keen to meet and communicate freely with UK institutions.
  • Ivor’s recommendations for potential collaborations included:
    • Undertaking appropriate due diligence on local partners.
    • Being very clear about your objectives and red lines in negotiations.
    • Make sure you are dealing with a decision maker.
    • Being patient to build up a relationship and meeting people face to face.
    • Agents may be helpful in certain phases such as finding a local partner, but when contacting regulators, it is typically better to meet them face to face rather than through an agent.
    • The UK Department for International Trade and British embassies both have useful expertise and links.
    • Meeting regulators in person.
    • Building links with existing universities in the region.

We have a long-standing relationship with Al-Tamimi, helping our education sector clients achieve their objectives internationally.  The above is a high level summary of some current issues; anyone considering these matters should always seek specific legal advice, which we would be very happy to discuss with you further. Finally, to sign up to other webinars in our series on HE International Strategy, do visit our events page.

Our content explained

Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.


Mills & Reeve Sites navigation
A tabbed collection of Mills & Reeve sites.
My Mills & Reeve navigation
Subscribe to, or manage your My Mills & Reeve account.
My M&R


Register for My M&R to stay up-to-date with legal news and events, create brochures and bookmark pages.

Existing clients

Log in to your client extranet for free matter information, know-how and documents.


Mills & Reeve system for employees.