Abu Dhabi has a number of ambitious national universities and hosts two of the most prestigious universities from abroad, the New York University and the Sorbonne, as part of Abu Dhabi’s heavy investment in education.
The Zayed University and the Higher Colleges of Technology are aiming at students from the local indigenous population. The Sorbonne and the New York University focus on students coming from abroad, many coming from families in Africa and Asia who want to combine benefiting from the reputation of these universities in combination with getting to know better the surroundings of the Gulf and the Arab world.
The Zayed University recently moved to its new premises in Madinat Khalifa. It has an overwhelming futuristic design by Hadi Tehrani. The Sorbonne relocated in 2010 to a new building on Reem Island, the New York University will move to Saadiyat Island somewhere during 2013 as planned.
All of these universities have programs in the arts history, some also have practical courses for graphic design, photography. For instance an exhibition of works by photography students at the Abu Dhabi Women’s College revealed a remarkable quality level. It is probably the personal interest for arts of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, that contributes to this, an active patron of culture. He has by now manifested himself as Abu Dhabi’s most visible minister moving through the field of the arts. An interesting new initiative he initiated under the umbrella of the Higher Colleges of Technology is the annual Festival of Thinkers.
Notably the New York University, the Sorbonne and the Zayed University organize public events including debates on political topics and cultural events.
In October 2012 the ADMAF announced a program in which it aligned with the visual artist Christo and his partner Jeanne-Claude and the New York University Abu Dhabi, the Christo and Jeanne-Claude Award, to nurture UAE talent, with Sheikha Shamsa Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan as patron.
As of yet an arts academy is lacking, anywhere in the UAE. Aspiring students in these fields still have to find their way abroad.