Dubai schools cost more than UK universities

Arabian Business finds Oxford and Cambridge charge less for entry than Dubai schools

Another Dubai parent said she was satisfied with the value for money she received for her three daughters’ primary school education, which costs AED38,000 per year at Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS).

But she could not understand why the fees doubled between Year 6 and Year 7 to AED65,660 – more than a UK university.

“I don’t know what more she’s going to get for it to jump that much,” the parent, who requested anonymity, said.

A spokesman for GEMS Education, the for-profit company that runs the school, said fees usually covered more tuition time per week than a university course, as well as other curricular activities.

Some employers also paid school fees or offered bonuses within employees’ salary packages, which were not available for university fees.

A spokeswoman for Repton, another school in Dubai, said fees were more expensive than UK universities because funding models were significantly different.

Teachers had to be recruited from the country where the school’s curriculum originated and their salary packages included extras such as housing and medical insurance that were not covered by universities. But compared to similar UK private schools, Dubai was cheaper.

Hynes said despite years of paying about AED70,000 per year for his son’s private education in Dubai, he still was not at the same academic level as his peers when he applied to enrol in the UK.

“[Dubai schools] are simply not delivering the quality of education that they should,” Hynes said.

“There’s something going badly wrong in the education here; it’s hugely expensive and it’s not delivering the UK quality education.

“The reason Dubai College and JESS get away with it is because there’s not enough supply of high quality schooling and there hasn’t been for decades.”

Hynes said parents of children in Asian and Indian schools were similarly struggling. Although their annual fees were significantly lower – at about AED15,000-18,000 – they were still excessive relative to their salaries.

Dubai school fees are set in line with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s school fees framework.

Schools can apply to increase their fees according to their rating by the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau.

Schools rated 'outstanding' can increase their fees by double the educational cost index (ECI). Those rated good may increase fees by 1.5 times the ECI, while others can only charge the ECI.

Hynes said even with KHDA limits on school fees, increases do not apply to extras such as school trips, which can cost up to AED10,000.

Join the Discussion

Disclaimer:The view expressed here by our readers are not necessarily shared by Arabian Business, its employees, sponsors or its advertisers.

NOTE: Comments posted on may be printed in the magazine Arabian Business

Please post responsibly. Commenter Rules

Posted by: Sajjad

Comparing school fees to university fees is not apples to apples comparison. We need to compare school fees to school fees.

I put my children through a private school in the UK for 2 years then moved to Dubai. The UK school was a reasonably pricced one, not a high end. I paid AED 67,000 (total for both per year) in the UK and pay AED 62,000 (total for both per year) here in Dubai. So it is cheaper here. The Cambidge and Oxford University fees at AED 53,000 are also cheaper than a UK private school.

The question, however, is not just one of fees. The level of education in the UK is considerably better than Dubai. I would say that my children dropped back about a year in their level here in Dubai compared to where they were at in the UK. In Dubai we have good facilites in the school that we pay for, but the education is more important than whether there is a swimming pool or not. Unfortuantely, there is no focus on improving the actual education itself.

Posted by: Margo wearn

I have decided to home school in Dubai because a) i am broke and b) i am (actually) quite intelligent.

Easy solution and the kids can get up at 11 instead of 7.

Posted by: Skm

University tuition fees soar for foreign students
Foreign students are being charged up to eight times more than British undergraduates as universities seek to plug a multi-million pound hole in the higher education budget.

New figures show students from outside Britain and the EU will pay an average of �10,463 in tuition fees next year ? a rise of 5.6 per cent.

One university ? Imperial College London ? is preparing to charge fees of up to �26,250 for some laboratory-based subjects.
Under Government rules, tuition fees for all British students and those from EU member states are capped at �3,290 next year, but universities are free to set unlimited fees for foreign undergraduates.

A study earlier this year by the think-tank Policy Exchange found that overseas students were increasingly seen as a ?lucrative source of income for a growing numbers of universities?.

Posted by: Alex

Agree, I have my daughter as an overseas student at Central Saint Martins College and tuition and accommodation in student quarters is equal to Year 10 for my son at GEMS Wellington in Dubai.... No issue normally if quality of education was worth the investment, however, teachers who treat assignments in Dubai as a working holiday and the constant 'in and out' with no continuity of teaching staff makes the quality suffer and the students lacking encouragement and commitment....

Posted by: Dr Salman Hameed

No taxes here in UAE. Even the services here offered to all residents way better than any other country in the world. We dont pay a dollar or pound or Euro to use public toilets like many Western countries despite all the taxes they pay. Education is far more superior in private schools here as compared to western public schools. That's why hundred of thousands of westerners do not want to go back to their own countries as the level and quality of life they enjoy in Dubai is far superior to that in any other country. If you are a law abiding residents than there are no problems. The local emirati community is educated and very tolerant. I have lived in UK and Canada and USA and I know what I am talking about.
I can spend on health and education from the money I save for not paying taxes. I dont have to wait for months or sometimes years waiting for doctors appointments or investigations.
LONG LIVE UAE AND its leaders and all the residents.
May God bless this country.

Posted by: Oldtimer

Most of what you mentioned is true, but the level of education here is really pathetic! I am comparing it to the private education I received in a third world country, for far less money ( exchange rates considered)! There was far more commitment to quality education and the teachers were very dedicated to their students. The GEMS group is spoiling the reputation of Dubai by dishing out mediocre fare for top dollar. What is adding to the helplessness of the parents is the near monopoly they have in Indian-curriculum schools. We have a wonderful life here and would like to stay together as a family, and not have to send our kids away to get a better education. We would (at lest I would) gladly pay top dollar, if they only provided quality education. Despite the exorbitant fees they charge, their teachers are paid a pittance, so qualified and experienced ones don't stay for long. The result is a constant change of teachers which adversely affects the students performance

Posted by: Gamal

Mr. Salman,
with all due respect, we are talking about cost of education and you are talking about taxes which is irrelevant.

schools are suppose to be either non-profit Org or they are regulated in the sense that they can not simply charge as they like.

as the article mentioned, the KJ student pays more that the university student....where is the sense here.

we need gov intervention just like any other sector..banking etc.
although the quality of education is not the issue here but you went to compare the UK / western education to Dubai schools....which is a poor discussion because it is not relevant and also we all know all the breakthroughs came from the west/ USA ...if u want to compare MIT/ Harvard/ Stanford/Berkely / Oxford/ Cambridge etc.

as a matter of fact, the curriculum that the schools teach in Dubai is either British or American.

so let's not divert and lets compare apples to apples.

the question here is the cost of education period.

Posted by: one of the joes

Dear Salman, your Dr does not help you from making unqualified statements, it appears. many expats that I know left & live & work happily in countries where they have to pay taxes. I have sent my children back to Europe to attend (private) schools there. All of our children confirm how much better the schools (curriculum, teachers, infrastructure) are compared to here. All of our kids have been to a number of high cost schools in Dubai, they know what they are talking about.
you pay for what you use here, that's just a different collection scheme than with taxes. Nothing is for free here, but that is also not expected.
And in regard to medical services - you know where many Emiratis go for treatment? Europe, namely Germany and UK. Same doctors work here & in Europe, different price. European prices are lower as there is no real estate bubble surcharge one of the joes included in Europe prices.
I still live here as I am closer to where the biz is - in the Gulf region, not for taxes

All comments are subject to approval before appearing

Further reading

Features & Analysis
Investing in the next generation: the value of Gulf education

Investing in the next generation: the value of Gulf education

Developers tired of traditional real estate assets are turning...

GCC's class act threatened by teacher shortages

GCC's class act threatened by teacher shortages

A global shortage of school teachers is particularly hurting...

Educating business minds

Educating business minds

University of Wollongong is one of a number of institutions helping...

Most Discussed