British curriculum schools urged to reduce their fees

British curriculum schools should reduce their fees to reflect the impact of slowing growth in the wider economy says a new report by the consultancy Colliers.

Operators should establish what is described as an affordable fee structure in the range of £6,000 (Dh26,860) to £12,000 a year, according to the report released on Sunday.

Most British schools in the UAE target the high income segment with fees that range from £8,000 to £20,000 a year.

The consultancy says similar returns could still be generated by operators because of the reduced capital expenditure required, relatively faster ramp-up periods and higher utilisation rates with more students per class.

The ease of transferability of students within the English national curriculum school system worldwide is one of the main reasons for the popularity of such schools among the transient population of the UAE.

Dubai-based school operator Taaleem has three British curriculum schools within its portfolio of 11 schools.

“I certainly see the current economic situation affecting the number of people that are relocating to Dubai,” said Clive Pierrepont, a spokesman for Taaleem. “The oil prices have had a knock-on effect on the expatriate market, and at present there appear to be more families leaving than arriving in the UAE.”

The trend is expected to be balanced by the pick-up in the economy fuelled by Expo2020.

“Good schools will never slash fees because the majority of their overheads are staff costs and school performance is inextricably linked to the quality of teachers,” he said.

“The only way to economise is to cut staff salaries and increase the size of the classes. However, parents will only compromise on the education of their children as a last resort.”

Dubai will require an additional 55,000 to 74,000 places in the British curriculum schools by 2025, according to the Colliers report. About 38 per cent of private schools in Dubai offer a British curriculum.

In Abu Dhabi, where 24 per cent of the private schools follow the British curriculum, it is forecast to require 39,000 to 52,000 places in British curriculum schools by 2025.

Rising expatriate populations in the region in the years following the global financial crisis and before oil prices started to fall in the summer of 2014 drew a wave of investment into the education sector and the arrival of several new British curriculum schools.

One of the latest arrivals is Kent College Dubai, which accepted its first students this year.

Cranleigh opened in Abu Dhabi in 2014 and Brighton College in 2011. Repton opened in Dubai in 2007, followed by a branch in Abu Dhabi in 2013.

Repton Dubai has a boarding school component where the total fees range between Dh134,000 and Dh166,759 in the current academic year, up from between Dh120,979 a year to Dh161,199 a year in the previous academic year.

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi had fees starting at Dh65,000 and went up rising to Dh80,000 a year for year nine for the past academic period. In the 2015-2016 session, the fees did not change.

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