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Studying and working in the UAE

The RIBA Gulf Chapter supports members across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Find out information about how to study and work as an architect in the UAE.

The UAE is a rapidly growing modern country and trading hub, with a very active design community. Many RIBA Members based here are active within the chapter, working in everything from large global companies, small boutique firms, universities and the government.

The country has many buildings of interest to visit, and architectural related events throughout the year. There are RIBA-accredited Part 1 degree courses in the UAE, and a Part 3 course available.

RIBA Gulf Chapter - Tour of Gargash Mosque by Dabbagh Architects, Dubai, UAE February 2022

Qualifications and accreditation

There is currently no equivalent of ARB in the UAE for architects, nor protection of title. There is the Society of Engineers UAE (SOEUAE), which recognises qualifications but is more for structural and civil engineers. While SOEUAE’s focus is on engineers, the SOEUAE currently has its own architect members. RIBA-qualified architects (Parts 1, 2 and 3) are generally recognised by employers in terms of quality of education and experience attained and sought after.

Standards and approvals

The local building standards are based on a mixture of international (UK and USA being the most common) and local-specific codes, which vary slightly across different emirates and districts. These are usually available and free online.

Approvals are required for construction but are more objective and technical based than the UK planning system. The system checks that buildings comply with codes and the restrictions recorded in the title deed and masterplan documents.


The UAE offers a high standard of living, with excellent healthcare, education, childcare support and infrastructure. The country's diverse population and cosmopolitan cities can provide a great working experience for all architects living and working in the UAE.

Whilst the summer heat can be tough, there are many indoor activities and many sporting and cultural activities through the winter. There are more perks and greenery, than most people expect.

The salaries are generally higher than in the UK and there is no income tax on salaries. The cost of living is higher for some items and lower for others. A visa is required to live in the UAE. Your visa will generally be provided by your employer, but there are other types available (e.g. student, investor, freelance, job seeker, retiree).

If you are considering moving to the UAE, for further information please contact the RIBA Gulf Chapter.

RIBA-validated and affiliated universities

The following universities in the UAE offer RIBA-accredited Part 1 courses, or are on the path to accreditation.

The following universities do not currently offer RIBA-accredited courses, but they have collaborated with RIBA, signed MoUs for collaborations, run joint events, and have several RIBA Members on their faculty:

RIBA-affiliated architectural practices in the UAE

There is a broad spectrum of practices, big and small, in the UAE. The following RIBA Charted Practices have international offices in the UAE:

The following RIBA Chartered Practices are UAE-based :

The following UAE-based practices have active RIBA Members:

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