Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Dubai's most expensive private school triples pupil numbers

The North London Collegiate School is building a new wing to cope with demand

James Monaghan, principal of North London Collegiate School in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National
James Monaghan, principal of North London Collegiate School in Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Dubai's most expensive private school has more than tripled its number of pupils in two years by offering big discounts on fees to parents.

The North London Collegiate School now boasts nearly 800 pupils, compared with only 250 in 2017.

From the moment it opened its doors, the school offered huge discounts on pre-kindergarten tuition costs, slashing fees to Dh66,000 from Dh83,000.

There are a lot of parents in Dubai who spend hundreds of thousands of dirhams on cars. What’s more important, the education of their child or a car?

James Monaghan, North London Collegiate School

Fees for grade 12 pupils were also dropped by 20 per cent to Dh104,000, from Dh130,000.

This week, the school began the construction of a new wing as part of its plans to cope with demand.

“The discount surely helped many families but I think ultimately, parents are choosing the education and the school,” said principal James Monaghan.

“I would like to think that our parents are coming here because it is North London Collegiate School, not because it’s Dh10,000 cheaper than others.”

The first North London Collegiate School was founded in 1850 in the UK and became one of the highest ranked independent schools in England.

Officials established its first overseas campus in South Korea in 2011, soon to be followed by an expansion into the Middle East.

Mr Monaghan said the school had not anticipated needing additional classroom space in just its third year in operation in Dubai.

The school is selective about who can attend, and prospective pupils must sit several tests to prove their capabilities. Christopher Pike / The National
The school is selective about who can attend, and prospective pupils must sit several tests to prove their capabilities. Christopher Pike / The National

Its current maximum capacity is 920 pupils, but officials hope this number will rise to 1,800 in the next three to four years, once the new building work is complete.

“With the number of pupils we have enrolled, we think there is a market [for premium schools] out there and it is because of the quality of education we are delivering,” Mr Monaghan said.

“There are a lot of parents in Dubai who spend hundreds of thousands of dirhams on cars.

“What’s more important, the education of their child or a car? Maybe, some parents are making those sacrifices and are investing in us.”

North London Collegiate School follows the International Baccalaureate Diploma curriculum, often considered the gold standard by universities.

It caters for boys and girls from age three to 18.

"I aim for this school to be the best IB Diploma school in Dubai this year with our first cohort of pupils,” said Mr Monaghan.

“We have 15 pupils in grade 12 and about 30 to 40 per cent are applying to either Ivy league universities or the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge.

“Last year, the highest International Baccalaureate Diploma average score in Dubai's schools was 37, and I aim for the school's to be higher than that.

“I want to have an average of at least 38 in our first year and I know we have six or seven pupils who will get scores over 40,” he said.

Fiona McKenzie, head of education at Carfax Education, an international consultancy based in Dubai, said the school commanded a “strong reputation”.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 14 OCTOBER 2019. North London Collegiate School, one of Dubai's most expensive schools is expanding after the school's population has grown from 250 to 800 in two years. Dr Abdulla Al Karam. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Anam Rizvi. Section: National.
Abdulla Al Karam, head of Dubai's education regular, is pleased to see the school growing so fast. Antonie Robertson / The National

"North London Collegiate is a unique school in the sense that it’s a well-recognised British brand with an incredibly academic pedigree,” she said.

“When it hit the market two years ago it was still challenging, but the school has built a really strong reputation and commanded a loyal following of parents.”

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, director general of Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Dubai’s private school regulator, said fees undoubtedly influenced parents’ choice of school.

But he said increased competition for schools was also causing institutions to set themselves apart from the field by offering more specialised education.

"Schools are now thinking harder than before about how they could create something unique to cater to parents needs," he said.

"Price is a component but having a uniqueness in your offering is another component. We would like to see schools with different offerings."

Updated: October 16, 2019 10:19 AM

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