Only five of Dubai's 53 universities offer PhD courses, and last year just one of 250 students was reading for a doctorate.
But that is slowly changing. Soon there will be several more courses to choose from.
From September, the British University in Dubai (BUiD) will run a PhD in project management, while BITS Pilani, an Indian branch university, is offering engineering, management and interdisciplinary areas such as nanotechnology.
The head of the BUiD course, Dr Paul Gardiner, expects most of its students to be those who have already taken a masters at the university. He is hoping for between 12 and 15 in the first cohort.
He expects the course to have broad appeal.
"Project management is a discipline with both breadth and focus," he said. "The programme is aimed at public and private sectors in all areas, particularly middle managers who aspire to move into senior and director level posts and existing senior managers who may wish to broaden their career into academia.
"Younger applicants who have a passion for an academic career will require a PhD to be eligible to compete seriously in this sector internationally."
The degree will be accredited by one of the UK's top institutions, the University of Manchester, as well as the UAE Ministry of Higher Education.
Martin Prince, registrar at BUiD - which already offers a doctorate in education - says the tendency of local employers to focus more on experience than qualifications is a challenge. But he hopes that in time this will change.
The demand is there, he says, from students and employers. "Many masters level graduates and their professional colleagues and neighbours have sought an accredited PhD," he said. "Our initial surveys of market need and the levels of early inquiry are very promising."
Dr Warren Fox, head of higher education at the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, which licenses and regulates the emirate's universities, said: "Both of these not only enrich the graduate level offerings, but better meet Dubai's needs and move to increase research activity.
"This is an indicator of maturity of higher education in Dubai."