University dedicated to AI
Lily Burns, Associate Provost, Administrative Affairs, Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence

University dedicated to AI

UAE’s Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is tasked with building an ecosystem of AI practitioners and entrepreneurs, aligned with the National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031.

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence was established to be a world-leading Artificial Intelligence research and development institution, in terms of core knowledge but also translational and interdisciplinary work. Hand-in-hand with this, the university is tasked with building up an ecosystem of practitioners and entrepreneurs, aligned with the UAE National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence 2031.

Against a backdrop of global talent shortages, the university is providing a pipeline of specialists to support UAE’s innovation trajectory. The University is supporting the UAE to find solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges with transformative research in areas such as healthcare, education, and climate. 

As a research university, there is a strong focus on students taking a central role in research. Examples include pioneering work around using computer vision and machine learning to analyse medical scans, the application of digital twins for personalised cognitive health, and smart microgrids.

The university offers the MBZUAI Executive Programme, which was launched in September 2021 to support the UAE Government, NGOs, and businesses, by delivering practical Artificial Intelligence training and knowledge to the digital first executive leaders to unlock opportunities.

Participants complete a rigorous 12-week programme consisting of coursework, lectures, and collaborative project work covering essential topics including Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and the economy; lingual cognition and intelligence; visual cognition and intelligence, and Artificial Intelligence ethics and policymaking.

Industry alliances

MBZUAI has formed numerous partnerships with organisations regionally and globally to advance research and bring the benefits of Artificial Intelligence to industry, while also providing opportunities for students to work on cutting edge research projects and internships.

in the healthcare space, MBZUAI has signed agreements with organisations including Quris-Artificial Intelligence, Infinite Brain Technologies, Emirates Health Services, and BioMap, aimed at collaboration to help advance healthcare with Artificial Intelligence.

MBZUAI and Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, signed an MoU to jointly develop initiatives and conduct research into how Artificial Intelligence could transform key aspects of the nation’s aviation sector.

The MoU also encompasses training opportunities for MBZUAI students, focusing on deepening their understanding of the aviation industry and exploring the potential of Artificial Intelligence in addressing its challenges. Additionally, the partnership will facilitate scientific research and expertise exchange to develop innovative solutions that enhance crucial aspects of aviation.

MBZUAI partnered with IBM to launch an Artificial Intelligence Centre of Excellence in Abu Dhabi, which aims to develop and promote Artificial Intelligence technology to drive sustainability. The centre will develop carbon neutral solutions to existing energy supplies and combat climate change.

MBZUAI was involved in the development of Jais, the world’s largest and most accurate Arabic large language model, LLM. The model is the result of a collaboration between Inception, MBZUAI, and Cerebras Systems. Jais was trained on the Condor Galaxy 1, Artificial Intelligence supercomputer co-developed by G42 and Cerebras Systems. Jais’ training, fine-tuning, and evaluation were undertaken by an Inception, MBZUAI joint team on Condor Galaxy 1.

Research areas

Sustainability is a particular focus for MBZUAI, which has several research projects and initiatives aimed at helping to preserve the environment, including the pursuits of sustainable LLMs.

In early-2023, MBZUAI President and University Professor, Eric Xing, led a global collaboration with researchers at UC Berkeley, CMU, Stanford, and UC San Diego to address the unsustainable costs of training and running LLMs. The multidisciplinary team developed an LLM named Vicuna as an alternative to the astronomical cost and carbon footprint of OpenAI’s GPT-3.

Vicuna cost $300 to train and has a tiny carbon footprint compared to ChatGPT, which cost over four million dollars to train with an estimated 500 tons of carbon emitted. Vicuna is also highly competitive with ChatGPT and Google’s Bard scoring around 90% on subjective language assessments and making it the strongest known, publicly available chatbot alternative.

MBZUAI has also developed the Artificial Intelligence Operating System, AIOS, a technology which can substantially reduce the three big costs of Artificial Intelligence computing, energy, time, and talent. AIOS has the power to reduce Artificial Intelligence computing energy costs by making models smaller, faster, more efficient, and less reliant on expensive hardware for Artificial Intelligence creation. AIOS also directly speeds up the compute operations involved in training and serving Artificial Intelligence models, which further reduces the time needed for training.

Employment opportunities

The MBZUAI Executive Programme has successfully trained three cohorts consisting of more than 120 UAE CEOs, director generals, and executive directors in Artificial Intelligence so they can begin implementation in their home organisations.

Through their exposure to elite, global Artificial Intelligence researchers and heads of industry, private and public sector leaders in the UAE are growing into a powerful ecosystem, an essential ingredient for long-term success with the technology.

MBZUAI’s second cohort, the Class of 2023 graduated in June 2023, celebrating 59 students attaining a master’s in computer vision, machine learning, and natural language processing. Within seven weeks of their commencement, 66% of Class of 2023 alumni have confirmed employment, PhD placements, or paid internships.

Employment has been secured with organisations such as Abu Dhabi Police, G42, Technology Innovation Institute, Metaverse Centre, Inria Lille Institute, Royal Eficaz, FortyGuard, Shinobi Security, Yalla Group, and SnapChat UK. A total of 80% are expected to remain in the UAE and continue contributing to Abu Dhabi’s ecosystem.

All MBZUAI’s courses have a focus on the application of Artificial Intelligence to real world challenges and this is also reflected in the research projects taking place at the university. Students must also take part in compulsory internships to successfully complete their post-graduate degree, which gives them industry experience before returning to the workforce.

MBZUAI’s students take part in many competitions and hackathons supported by industry, having shared many successes in implementing Artificial Intelligence-powered maintenance programmes at ports, food security applications, energy saving metering systems, and traffic management, safety innovations.

These Artificial Intelligence applications can increase production, reduce costs, and improve overall efficiency. Two Class of 2022 graduates claimed DP World’s Big Tech Project and were awarded a paid internship where they are currently exploring metaverse solutions for seamless logistics at their ports.


MBZUAI welcomed its largest and most diverse class in August 2023. The 142 students represent 34 countries, with 95 studying for master’s degrees and 47 pursuing PhD programmes.

The university has continued to attract top students, with 22 students coming from the top 100 universities according to internationally recognised listings such as CSRankings, which ranks MBZUAI among the world’s top 20 universities in select areas.

Academic seats were competitive, with more than 4,000 applications received and an admission rate of 4.6%. This latest cohort has doubled the university’s student body count, reaching close to 300 students.

MBZUAI accepts applicants from all nationalities who hold a Bachelor’s degree in a STEM field such as computer science, electrical engineering, computer engineering, mathematics, physics and other relevant science and engineering majors, from a university accredited or recognised by the UAE Ministry of Education. For most programmes, the university simply requires a STEM bachelor’s degree with a GPA of 3.2/4.0 or above.

It is also possible to gain entry to the PhD programmes straight from a bachelor’s degree for exceptional students, generally on the strength of publications in top streams, but most enrolled PhD students also have a degree.

Being the world’s first research university dedicated to Artificial Intelligence, MBZUAI is not modelled on any other institution. It offers MSc and PhD courses in CV, ML and NLP, in addition to the newly added computer science and robotics courses.

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