Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 October 2019

UAE schools offer big discounts to boost enrolment

Rising numbers of schools has led to increased competition in the sector

Head teachers at top British schools in Dubai say they were offering up to a 50 per cent reduction for pupils starting this September. Sarah Dea / The National
Head teachers at top British schools in Dubai say they were offering up to a 50 per cent reduction for pupils starting this September. Sarah Dea / The National

Schools across the UAE are offering huge discounts on fees in an effort to boost enrolment in an increasingly competitive market.

Head teachers at top British schools in Dubai said they were offering up to a 50 per cent reduction for pupils starting this month.

The notable cuts come as schools in the Emirates admitted they were now operating in a far more aggressive sector, in part due to a higher number of schools available.

Last year, 13 new educational establishments opened in Dubai alone, with a further eight expected in the emirate by next year.

In total, there are now 639 public and 580 private schools across the UAE. Four years ago, Dubai had just 173 private schools compared with 208 this year.

“Top schools [are] battling [it out] due to tough economic situations,” said Brendon Fulton, principal at Dubai British School Jumeriah Park.

“We saw families looking at cheaper school options. Also, families were thinking of moving back to their home countries due to expenses.

“We want to support families in not having to compromise on good-quality schooling for their children.”

Although multiple UAE schools are offering big discounts this September, some heads in Dubai are actually able to increase their fees for the first time since 2017.

This is due to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the emirate’s education regulator, recently agreeing that certain schools could increase fees by up to 4.14 per cent this academic year provided they met set performance targets.

Despite this, however, schools in the emirate including Renaissance School, Brighton College, Repton School, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park and North London Collegiate School have all decided to offer substantial discounts rather than raise prices.

Renaissance School said it had a 50 per cent reduction on fees, meaning parents will only have to pay Dh17,500 for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten places instead of Dh35,000.

For pupils in grades three and four, fees have similarly been reduced from Dh45,000 to Dh22,500, according to the school’s website.

Meanwhile, parents at Dubai British School Jumeirah Park are also being offered discounts, including a Dh10,000 reduction for all pupils from year one to nine and a Dh25,000 discount for those in year 10 and 11.

Fees at the school from year one to six will now be Dh65,000 annually, while pupils in years 10 and 11 will cost Dh75,000 per annum.

Furthermore, the school revealed it had decided to freeze its fees for the next two years to avoid a surprise increase in costs in 2020.

Speaking last week, some schools in the UAE also said they were offering sibling discounts of up to 10 per cent to families with three or more children at their school.

Other headteachers said they were offering what is known as founders discounts – where new schools grant reductions as part of a strategy to attract more pupils as the faculty builds its reputation and size.

Repton School said it had offered a 5 to 10 per cent discount to parents who paid their fees early. To be eligible, fees for this coming academic year had to be paid between October last year and February 2019.

Additionally, the school said pupils who had been awarded an IGCSE scholarship, given to individuals who achieved outstanding results in their IGCSE exams – were also entitled to a 10 per cent fee reduction. A sibling discount of five per cent is also being offered where three or more children attend the school.

“At Repton, we aim to support our student and parent community wherever possible and do so via a series of programmes,” David Cook, the headmaster, said.

Sara Boomsma, an associate at education consultancy Gabbitas Middle East in Dubai, said the discounts reflected the changing landscape of the sector in the UAE.

“There is definitely a more challenging financial environment at the moment, with employers offering different packages,” she said.

“Schools are having to look quite closely at their pricing structure and are revising it accordingly to make it more affordable for parents.”

Ms Boomsma said cost was always a factor for families choosing a school, although other criteria such as location were also key.

A British parent in Dubai, who wished to remain anonymous, told The National: “Lower school fees are brilliant from a family budgeting perspective as long as this does not affect the quality of teaching at the school.

“If schools are going to reduce fees at the cost of not having good teachers, I would rather pay higher fees.

“The premium expense schools are coming in line with what people can afford at the moment because there is so much choice nowadays compared to when we moved here 10 years ago.”

James Monaghan, principal at North London Collegiate School, Dubai, said it was continuing its founders’ discount for a third year to allow parents to get a 15 to 20 per cent discount on fees.

Pupil numbers have grown significantly since the school’s opening. It started with 250 pupils in 2017, increased to 500last year, and now boasts just less than 800.

“I am sure parents consider the discount but they come to us because of the school we are,” Mr Monagha said.

Updated: August 31, 2019 04:13 PM

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