The role of emotions in student engagement has been examined in many studies. However, little is known about how emotional intelligence (EI) is related to engagement and other key learning outcomes in higher education. To fill this gap, this study examined how EI is associated with student engagement and how EI and engagement jointly predict key learning outcomes in higher education, including the students’ GPA, generic outcomes, and satisfaction with the university experience. The study adopted a prospective longitudinal design involving 560 first-year students from 10 faculties of a university in Hong Kong. The data were collected at two-time points, namely before the start and after the end of the students’ first year in the university. Structural equation modeling was employed to test the measurement and hypothesized models. Results indicated that EI positively predicted all dimensions of student engagement and promoted key learning outcomes (including GPA, generic learning outcomes, and students’ satisfaction with the university) via the different dimensions of student engagement. The model also explained 16%, 44%, and 38% of the students’ GPA, generic learning outcomes, and satisfaction with their university experience, respectively. This study provides empirical evidence on the positive effect of EI on the students’ optimal functioning in the higher education context. Implications of the findings are discussed. Copyright © 2020 Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada, Lisboa and Springer Nature B.V.