x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Adec warned school about fee increases before lawsuit

School tried to sue Adec for Dh8 million in damages.

ABU DHABI // A private school that tried to sue the Abu Dhabi Education Council did so after being told to return a portion of school fees to parents.

The school in question, which the Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) declined to identify, had claimed Dh8 million in compensation for losses since its opening in 2006, saying it had been unable to set its tuition at the desired level.

On Sunday, the Abu Dhabi Court of First Instance rejected the lawsuit, saying that Adec had acted according to its legal prerogative.

"The key point is, Adec regulates fees of private schools and no school can increase its fees without the formal written approval of the authority," said Francesco Ruggiero, a manager in the licensing and accreditation department at Adec.

Mr Ruggiero explained that in the lead-up to the court case the school had filed a request to raise its fees by an average of more than 30 per cent for the 2010-2011 academic year. The school was told in writing that Adec would approve only a 5 per cent increase.

The school approached Adec again with additional financial details, asking the council to reconsider its decision.

The newly submitted numbers were "thoroughly reviewed" with financial consultants, according to Adec, and again dismissed.

"But the school went ahead and increased the fees anyway," said Mr Ruggiero. "When parents complained we probed further and asked them to refund the parents."

At that stage, Mr Ruggiero said, Adec received a legal challenge from the school's lawyers. Negotiations were unsuccessful and Adec eventually received notice that the school was suing.

The case went to court in January. The school cited an article of private education law, which states that a school may determine its own fees when it first opens, without interference from the authority.

The argument was rejected by the court after Adec officials proved that although the school campus began operations in 2006, it was classed an extension of an existing institution, which had begun operations in 1993.

Representatives of the school also told the court that Adec's refusal to approve fee increases had caused the school huge financial damages.

They said the losses had forced the school to take loans from banks to continue operating.

In his ruling, the judge said the school should have stopped operations in its first year to avoid accumulating losses. "The council did not make any mistake in implementing the law," he said.

aahmed@thenational.ae