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Online universities in UAE

Wednesday 16 January 2019 (UAE)   

Online universities in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE

Online universities in the United Arab Emirates, UAE, Abu Dhabi, Dubai. List of distance learning and online colleges and universities, courses, degrees, accreditation and approval, MBA information and FAQs.

There are so many "online" universities and colleges which are fake or scams, that if you decide you want to pursue a program online, we would suggest when doing research for a suitable course, you default to assuming that any online university website you find is a "degree mill" or some sort of scam, until you can independently verify that it is not. You should also assume that any claimed accrediting agencies, and ranking organisations, are also fake, designed to support the scams, until you can verify independently that they are not. As a first step, you should make sure the online courses are offered by a real campus with real students studying there.

Distance Learning vs Online Learning

The difference between distance learning and online courses or degrees is perhaps not much when it comes to study, but some of these points might be worth considering.

  • Established "bricks and mortar" universities which have offered distance learning programs for some time are likely to have better online learning programs in place - with the university or college using the internet and online learning as one channel of education delivery rather than the only channel. Other teaching methods might include real books and course material made of paper, assignments, human tutors available for consultation, workshops and tutorials either in the country where students are based or the institute's home campus or both, and a degree or qualification which is recognized by various authorities as being the same as one from the equivalent program studied by students on-campus.
  • Dedicated online universities might or might not have a physical presence somewhere, and if they do, it might just be some sort of administrative office, not a real campus with classrooms, lecture theaters, laboratories, grass, trees etc. The accreditation authority, if they claim to be approved by one, needs to be more closely examined to be sure it is one recognised by a Ministry of Education, and not just one established by the university to approve itself. Degree certificates awarded by such an online university do not have the same equivalence to a degree awarded to a student studying on-campus, and might not be recognised by employers or government authorities as having any validity with respect to their qualification requirements. Completing an online degree program is often substantially easier than completing an on-campus program or a distance learning course from a real university, and sometimes as easy as just paying money and filling in a form.
  • The Open University based in London, UK, is one example of a dedicated online or distance learning institute without a physical campus where students can study, which does have some official recognition and is generally respected in the academic and business community as providing worthwhile qualifications.

Degree Mills, Diploma Mills are terms often used for institutes which effectively sell a degree to someone without requiring much, or any, study, and at worst are scams or hoaxes. Such degrees are rarely worth more than the paper they are printed on. Although it is much easier to set up such an operation solely online, that does not mean all online universities are degree mills. It is also possible to find offline degree mills however the internet means those institutes have become somewhat obsolete now, or they have developed a presence online.

University courses and degrees online in the UAE

Obviously an online university could be anywhere in the world, and the appeal of studying at one is that students can live anywhere in the world also. So students living in the UAE can study at any online university. Many such universities market themselves as offering "international" degrees, whatever that means. The point of this list is to highlight online universities that either have some sort of real presence in the UAE (an office or local representative for example), are based in the UAE (for example the Mohammed Bin Hamdan e-university), or seem to be specifically marketing to or targeting UAE based students.

Be careful though, it's much easier, and cheaper, to build an impressive looking website than it is to build an impressive looking university campus. As a result there are many online universities that are fake or scams, operating primarily to get your money, and not to give you a real degree which is worth something. As part of the hoax, many universities will claim to be accredited by a regional or international accreditation organisation which exists solely or primarily to support the fake university, and is not recognized by any official government education body as a university accrediting body. Before enrolling at an online university, try to discover if their degrees are actually worth anything - check with a potential future employer in the UAE if a degree from ABC or XYZ University is valid for employment, and check with the UAE Ministry of Labour if that degree is accepted as a recognized qualification for work permit and employment visa applications.

You could also check with the UAE Ministry of Higher Education but as a minimum requirement for recognition or accreditation by them is that the institute has a physical presence in the UAE, none of the online universities based outside the UAE will have any validity according to them, even if they really do exist and really do award degree qualifications. This requirement also excludes real universities operating outside the UAE from accreditation by the UAE MOHESR, but they are usually accredited by an official agency in the country where they are located, and this means that degrees awarded by them can be attested and accepted by the UAE authorities for the purposes of work permit applications.

  • Hamdan Bin Mohammed E-University - is a real university based in Dubai. Accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education CAA.
  • Islamic Virtual University Sharjah - planned or proposed, vague information supplied.
  • Wellington University Dubai (WU, WUD) - unknown, references seen for WUD but no website, contact or location information found.
  • University of Atlanta Dubai - online university, has or had an office in Dubai but no UAE contact details provided.
  • Webpreneur University Dubai - not a university, online or otherwise, but offers training courses in how to set up an online business.
"Online UAE Universities" (OUU)

The following list of online universities appear to be different names for the same place, or coincidentally they all happen to offer the same scholarships for UAE based students (up to 75%), the same fee structure, and use the same website designer. They are also all rated highly, or as the best online university in the world, by another website called Online UAE Universities. Which all sounds rather confusing to us - perhaps we need a degree in online education to understand it.

  • Dubai Online University - looks the same as the ones listed below, no Dubai or UAE contact information provided, tel number is in the USA.
  • Hadley University UAE - an online university in USA, not a real university in Dubai or anywhere else in the UAE, but appears to be marketing itself to UAE based students with "scholarships".
  • Hillford University UAE - looks the same as Hadley University and many other online universities.
  • Mayfield University Abu Dhabi UAE - looks the same as Hadley University. Marketed as related to Abu Dhabi or something.
  • Willington University UAE - looks the same as Hadley University. Not related to Wilmington University in the USA, or Wellington University in NZ (Victoria University of Wellington).

Another peculiarity is a claim on the university website of being featured in media reports, but not providing reports, nor can any reports be found in some cases. For example Richford University says (CNN article existed but was removed, and nothing found about RU in the other three papers):

Richford in Media

  • CNN > Richford Announces Scholarship Worth USA 1 Million
  • Online Education Gains Prominence in Mainstream Media
  • Gulf News
  • Khaleej Times
  • The Gulf Today

CNN website link to the RU report says This iReport is not available. This iReport has been removed because it was flagged by the community and found to be in violation of the iReport Community Guidelines and Terms of Use.

"Online Universities UAE" (OUU) is an organisation, or just a website, that appears to be designed to support several online universities marketing themselves in the UAE. For anyone familiar with or living in the UAE, some of the references given for their courses will sound rather peculiar, and it looks like some of the references writers are unfamiliar with UAE and Arab culture, to say the least, even the reference writers with Arab sounding names. There is also a mismatch between photos and names, similarly for staff photos, positions, and profiles on individual online university websites, which indicates either carelessness or deliberately publishing misleading information.

List of universities and colleges reviewed or mentioned on the OUU website:

  • Al Arab University - not the same as, or related to the Al Arab Medical University.
  • Arizona State University (ASU)
  • Ashford University
  • DeVry University
  • Everest University (Everest Online University)
  • Hadley University
  • Liberty University
  • Liverpool University - same as University of Liverpool? Confusing information - UOL is a well-established proper university in the UK, and has offered online programs for some time, which are equivalent to their on-campus degrees according to what they say.
  • Mayfield University - says "Founded in 1962"?
  • Phoenix University - same as University of Phoenix?
  • Regis University - says "Founded in 1877", not an online university, is a real university offering online programs.
  • Richford University
  • Steadford University
  • Strayer University - says "Founded in 1892"?
  • Sullivan University?
  • University of Liverpool - says "Founded in 1962"? Information page says "Sullivan University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools" - is a typo? Or might be a reference to Sylvan International Universities, which was the previous name of Laureate International Universities, the outsourced provider of online education for the UOL, or the UOL "e-learning partner".
  • University of Phoenix - says "Founded in 1976"?
  • Westland University
  • Woodbridge University - not clear if this is part of the same group, website looks similar but scholarship discount offered is only 50%.

Other online university names, might or might not be related to OUU (in Top 100 Online Universities list)

  • American Intercontinental University
  • Capella University
  • Colorado State University
  • Kaplan University
  • Oregon State University
  • Penn State University
  • Saint Leo University
  • South University
  • University of Arizone - different from Arizone State University.
  • Walden University
  • Western Governors University

OUU listed universities claim to be accredited by these organisations

  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • International Accreditation Organization (IAO)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

OUU website says "Our member institutes are accredited and recognized by:"

  • AAU?
  • AAUW?
  • Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
  • AdvancED Accredited SACS
  • American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
  • American Council on Education (ACE)
  • British Council
  • Central Accreditation Center for Project Management?
  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)?
  • Higher Learning COmmission (HLC), a commission of the North Central Association
  • NAFSA? Association of International Educators?
  • NCA?

Other unapproved, unknown, or fake accrediting agencies

  • Central American Council of Accreditation (CACA)
  • Distance Learning Quality Assurance Agency (DLQAA)
  • Global Accreditation Council for Business Education (GACBE)
  • International Accreditation Council for Engineering Professionals (IACEP)
  • Middle East Accreditation Council (MEAC)
Liverpool University Online - University of Liverpool Online (UOL) Dubai
  • UOL website at www.liv.ac.uk. Has a section for their online courses and programs. Unknown if they are specifically marketing online degrees in Dubai or plan to but references seen to UOL online courses in the UAE, and the UOL website lists several representative organisations based in the UAE.
  • Online courses website at www.university-liverpool-online.com. Not clear if it is an official UOL website or one developed by Laureate International Universities to market UOL online programs. Has references to the UOL website, but no references found on the UOL website to the dedicated online domain.
  • www.liverpool.ohecampus.com - seems to be a domain redirecting visitors to the UOL online degrees website.
  • Mixed reports seen about the quality and value of an online degree from UOL, but it's probably better than one from the more obvious Degree Mill style online universities.

What to check for Degree Mills, Diploma Mills, scam or fake universities and colleges

This is not a comprehensive list, and one item on its own might not mean the university is fake, but each of these items is potentially a red flag. Put many of them together and it should be a warning.

  • Organisation website popup windows with special offers or live chat login, especially if they repeatedly reappear after being closed, or have a message along the lines of "Are you sure you want to close this window?" when you try.
  • Institute website has a domain name ending in .tk. The extension is the country code for the Tokelau Islands which gave them away free, and as a result, a wide variety of scams were using them (and probably still are, it seems pointless to investigate since there are so many, now we just don't bother with anything that ends in .tk).
  • Institute does not have a web domain ending in .edu. This is a minor negative indicator since many legitimate institutes have domain names ending in .com, .org, .net, or the country code (.ae for the UAE). But it is a strong positive indicator that the organisation is legitimate if the domain name does end in .edu.
  • Institute claims to be based in the UAE but does not have a .ae web address. Again, a number of legitimate institutes in the UAE use .com but the better ones still also get the .ae address and forward it to the .com address.
  • Website design is the same template or a similar one as used by many other online colleges and universities. You'll understand this better after seeing several websites and starting to get a sense of deja-vu.
  • Claimed membership of organisations and accrediting bodies which either don't exist, or only exist to support degree mills, not real universities.
  • Not accredited by any officially recognized international accrediting agency. There are very few international accrediting agencies that have any merit, usually the agencies are country based but sometimes used by institutes outside that country. The ones in the USA seem to be the most popular, unfortunately, the USA also seems to be home to the largest number of fake accrediting agencies.
  • Not accredited or recognized by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research Commission for Academic Accreditation (MOHESR-CAA), or the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) in Dubai. Dubai based institutes might come under the authority of the KHDA or the MOHESR or both.
  • Staff or faculty names are made up, or belong to people who have nothing to do with the institute. Search LinkedIn as a first step to get some background information. Not all university faculty have an account there but many do.
  • Staff and faculty photos on the institute's website don't match the names. Often they belong to models selling stock photos of themselves for internet use (do an image search to check).
  • Claimed newspaper coverage doesn't exist or has been deleted. Sending out a press release is easy, getting a reputable source to publish it and keep it published is more difficult.
  • For institutes offering programs in the UAE, no UAE based contact information or office can be found.
  • Institute claims to have high rankings in surveys which don't exist or can't be found, or by organisations which don't exist or exist only to provide a name for a survey with a high ranking, for example websites with a domain name along the lines of best universities online, top mbas, online mbas, best online degrees, etc. Whether .com, .net, or .etc. Look for a survey from a reputable source - if you never heard of it, then assume it's not reputable (it might be but either find out for sure or go with what you don't know). If survey methodology isn't explained clearly or at all, that's another red flag. If it is explained, that still doesn't mean it's any good - many surveys, even legitimate ones, are carried out poorly.
  • Substantial discounts on published fees for example 25%, 50%, 75%. Discounts might be marketed as "scholarships" or similar.
  • Study time does not make sense, even if it sounds good to you. A proper degree does not take a few weeks, it takes years unless you are a child prodigy, not because the university has a magic snake oil formula that enables you to study while sleeping.
  • "Life experience" can be used as partial credit for a degree. Life experience is life experience, not academic study and research. Work experience is different, and it might be possible to have that count as credit towards a degree, but it should be relevant and specialised. Selling car insurance over the phone does not make you an MBA financial analyst.
  • University name is found in a list which contains known fake or scam organisations, degree mills, diploma mills. But consider too that sometimes these lists are padded out with real university names to add a degree of authenticity.
Other online institutes with a connection to Dubai, UAE

Updates needed, status unknown.

  • Ashwood University in Texas, USA? Has an office or partner in Dubai?
  • Belford University? Has an office or certificate printing facility in Dubai?
  • Must University - offers medical qualifications, but they are not recognized by UAE authorities?
Other FAQs and headings
  • Accredited online universities in Dubai, UAE - only HMB e-University as far as we know, since it is the only online university with a physical presence in the UAE. Others either have no physical presence in the UAE therefore cannot be accredited by UAE authorities, or their physical campus in the UAE has courses which are accredited, and also delivered online in some cases.
  • Best online university in UAE - possibly the Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University, mostly because it is the only online university with a real presence in the UAE. There are others but they are real universities which use online and distance learning to deliver their programs, for example Strathclyde MBA in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. They might even be better than HBM university but don't really market themselves as an online university so it's difficult to compare them.
  • Islamic Online University Dubai UAE - doesn't exist? There is an IOU based in Doha, Qatar, and a Facebook page for IOU UAE but with no contact information. Or is possibly a reference to Islamic Azad University in Dubai, or the Islamic Online University in Sharjah (Islamic Virtual University)? The founder of IOU in Qatar, Dr Bilal Philips, was also the founder of the Islamic Information Center in Dubai.
  • Liverpool John Moores University Dubai?
  • Online College of Total Quality in Dubai - probably a reference to the HBM e-University (previously was called the e-Total Quality Management University or something).
  • Online Training College Dubai?
  • Top online universities in UAE - kind of a pointless question. Most of the dedicated online universities in the OUU group each say they are the "World's Leading Online University", or one of them, but don't say how they obtained this rating. Looking for the best online university is a bit vague, it depends whether "best" means price, workload, or validity of qualification awarded. We'd suggest looking at the top universities in league tables in the UK or USA, and making enquiries to see if they deliver courses online or via distance learning in the UAE.
  • Universities in Dubai offering online MBA - see the list of MBA colleges and universities in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, UAE. Some of them deliver an MBA online or via distance learning which is approved by relevant authorities. Heriott-Watt University is one good example.


  • Parent category - Higher Education UAE, List of universities and colleges in the UAE.
  • Child pages - universities and colleges.
  • Related pages - MOHESR, CAA, Dubai Online University, Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University, online MBA in Dubai and UAE.

Articles or organizations

  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) - officially recognized education authority or agency in the USA. Official website at www.chea.org. Has a database of officially accredited higher learning institutes, and a list of accrediting bodies recognized by CHEA or the US Department of Education (USDE), or both.
  • Oregon Office of Degree Authorization (ODA) - Oregon is the most stringent state in the USA with respect to regulating degree-issuing and accrediting bodies (Allen Ezell comment)?
  • University Degree Program (UDP) - possibly the largest degree mill by far while in operation. Might still be operating but under a different name. No website found. See Allen Ezell comments.
  • "Recent Developments with Degree Mills: Accreditation Mills and Counterfeit Diploma and Transcript Operations") report by Allen Ezell, published in the College and University Journal (C&U) Volume 85, Number 2, 2009. Reference from here (might only be available to subscribers) www.aacrao.org/resources/resources-detail-view/volume-85--number-2--pdf-. Or PDF download available here www.macrao.org/Publications/Degree Mills Article CU Fall 2009.pdf.
  • "Still Fighting Fraud: Diploma Mills, Accreditation Mills, Counterfeiters, and Credential Evaluators" - Allan Ezell, presentation April 2012? PDF download available at handouts.aacrao.org/am12/finished/AllenEzell74156517.pdf.


  • www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0206-diploma-mills - USA Federal Trade Commission > Consumer Information > Diploma Mills.
  • www.freakonomics.com/2012/07/30/freakonomics-goes-to-college-part-1-full-transcript/ - transcript of interview with Allen Ezell who worked for Operation Dipscam in the 1980s, an FBI operation to shut down diploma scams in the USA? Reference not found from FBI sources. Some info on Wiki. Interview transcript includes this comment from Ezell:
    "We bought forty degrees, we had sixteen federal search warrants, nineteen federal grand jury indictments, about twenty-one convictions, we dismantled forty schools and or counterfeit operations. The highest gross revenue that I saw then, and this is pre-Internet, was two million dollars. Now, after the Internet came about, two million dollars that I was seeing for a gross revenue is not even pocket change. We’re now seeing thirty-six million, seven million, five million, and the lollapalooza, the biggest one that we’ve ever seen, called University Degree Program—and they operated from ’98 through about ’03— by our calculations they grossed four hundred and fifty-three million dollars. And the paper that they sold will pollute the market for years to come. And what makes it even worse: They sold degrees in anesthesiology, cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, obstetrics, oncology, ophthalmology, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, surgery, urology, and I would ask you where do you think the people who are employed that bought degrees in those majors?"
  • www.uniorbis.com/more/academic-scams/fake-universities - unknown if any sort of authority source, might just be a rant.
  • www.usnews.com/education/online-education - US News and World Report rankings of online universities for 2014. They are not an authoritative source (as in officially recognized by a government education department) but are sort of well known. Similar to the FT MBA Degree rankings, or The Economist Which MBA surveys. They might be criticised for being inconsistent, or flawed survey methodology, but it is unlikely they have any sort of hidden agenda and therefore are more likely to be trustworthy than almost any other site or organisation you find promoting the "best online universities in 2014" (or any other year). And the US News seems to do a reasonably good job of filtering out all the bogus and hoax online universities from their ranking table.
Last update Wednesday 29-Jan-2014. Page development 1H 2T 3D 4L 5C.
Related pages
Related websites (new window)
  • www.laureate.net - Laureate International Universities website? LIU is a large established organisation delivering online degrees? Also has a global network of real college and university campuses (none in the UAE though)? Possibly reputable but unknown if their qualifications are recognized in the UAE. Previously known as Sylvan International Universities? Website also at www.laureateeducation.com (unknown if official website or not)? Needs further investigation.


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