x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Top English school to open branch on Saadiyat

Renowned south London institution chooses Abu Dhabi for its first campus in the Middle East.

Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan (second from left) with Dulwich College's retiring master, Graham Able, during a recent visit to the London school to sign a memorandum of understanding.
Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan (second from left) with Dulwich College's retiring master, Graham Able, during a recent visit to the London school to sign a memorandum of understanding.

LONDON // One of Britain's most celebrated independent schools is to set up its first Middle East campus in Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat Island will be the home of the new school after a memorandum of understanding was signed between Dulwich College and the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC). It is scheduled to open in 2012.

Development of the project, which is expected to admit pupils from kindergarten age through to 18, will be overseen by Graham Able, who retires as headmaster - or "master" as he is known at Dulwich - next month. The addition of the Dulwich College campus at Saadiyat, which will admit boys and girls, is being seen as another step towards making the island an international educational and cultural centre that will include a campus of New York University, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum.

Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chairman of the TDIC, witnessed the signing of the memorandum at Dulwich's historic headquarters in south London on Wednesday. He said afterwards that he regarded the development as a significant contribution to the advancement of education in Abu Dhabi. "This is another remarkable demonstration of how TDIC is partnering with the best in every sector. "Our agreement with Dulwich College aims to provide a first-class curriculum, not only for the residents of Saadiyat Island but for the wider community of Abu Dhabi city."

Dulwich, which already operates three schools in China, had been courted by Dubai to establish a Gulf campus there. "We toured the region and, after exhaustive discussions, decided that Abu Dhabi was the right place for the college," said Fraser White, the executive chairman of Dulwich's franchise programme. Mr Able said: "We decided a few years ago that we would like to take the Dulwich College brand worldwide. We felt that the ethos, standards and education of the college were worth exporting.

"It has worked well in China and has proved mutually beneficial. We do, for example, insist that all pupils learn the first language of the host country, and that has transferred back here with Dulwich now probably the best school in the UK for learning Mandarin. "I'm personally very excited about the Abu Dhabi project, especially as I have been asked to have a personal input in its development. "Here in south London, we cater for, perhaps, the most multicultural community in the world. In addition, of course, we also attract many pupils from abroad.

"The royalties we get from ventures worldwide assist us to offer places to children whose parents could otherwise never afford our fees: about 30 per cent of our pupils are currently on a fee remission of between 15 and 100 per cent." Mugheer al Khaili, director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council, who was also at the Dulwich signing, said: "By attracting leading education institutions such as Dulwich College, we are supporting Abu Dhabi's long-term educational vision.

"We are helping to equip people with the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to contribute to a progressive global society and economy by providing quality educational facilities." The three Dulwich College schools in China are all co-educational, and the one in Shanghai has been rated among the top five schools in the world. At Dulwich itself, the 1,460 pupils, who normally rate in the top 15 per cent in annual educational assessment tests, pay up to £26,500 (Dh160,000) a year as full-time boarders.

dsapsted@thenational.ae