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Private school tuition fees in Dubai  

Sunday 20 April 2014 (UAE)   
 
   
 

Private school tuition fees and fee structure in Dubai

Private schools in Dubai charge fees of anywhere between AED 5000 and close to AED 100,000 per year per student, depending on the quality of the facilities, staff salaries, and how much profit the owner wants to make. Expat residents have little choice in paying fees for their children as UAE Government run schools are restricted to Emirati citizens only (although sometimes they open up to expat Arabs). Home schooling in UAE is about the only realistic option for expats wanting to avoid paying school fees.

  • School fees range from a minimum of around 5,000 dhs per year at a crowded and poorly resourced school to 70,000-90,000 dhs per year or more at one of the more reputable schools, for example Dubai College or the Dubai American School. Some of the expensive schools have the added reputation of being snobby so it's not all bad if you miss out on a place there.
  • School fees quoted are often for tuition only. The bus fares, uniforms, books, field trips, musical instrument hire, etc can all add up to an extra few hundred dhs or even a few thousand. Check carefully what the fees include.
  • School tuition fee payments for an academic year are not supposed to be paid before the end of the previous academic year, at least not in Dubai according to the KHDA. In 2009, some schools were reported to be trying to obtain payment before the summer holidays for the 2009-2010 academic year.
  • Public, or Government School fees were set at 6,000 dhs per year for all grades from September 2007 (previously they were 3,000-6,000 depending on the grade). Unless we've misunderstood the news from 05 July 2007, and the fees really are just for student uniforms.
Registration and admission fees in Dubai Schools (KHDA)

April 2012: This information supplied by the KHDA1 which applies only to schools in Dubai, not other emirates, although similar regulations might be in effect.

  • Existing students re-enrolling: A school may charge up to 10% of the school’s tuition fees as a re-registration deposit to confirm the return of existing students in the new academic year.
  • New students: A school may charge up to 30% of the school’s tuition fees as an admission fee to confirm that selected students will opt to take up the offered places.
  • Refunds: In the cases of both existing and new students, deposits and fees will not be refunded if students choose not to return to school for the next academic year or choose not to take the offered places. Schools might have individual refund policies for special cases, with KHDA guidelines as follows (monthly fee is calculated as annual fee divided by ten, not twelve, and presumably the clock is reset at the start of each term although that was not specifically stated in KHDA information):
    • Student attends school less than two weeks, one month fees payable to school, remainder refunded.
    • Student attends school between two weeks and one month, two months fees payable to school.
    • Student attends school more than a month, three months fees payable.
Overdue school fees from 2009-2012 in Abu Dhabi paid by Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE
  • 16 Aug 2012 - WAM reported that All expatriate students at Abu Dhabi public schools were exempted from overdue tuition fees for the past three years upon directives from President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
  • This followed an earlier statement by ADEC instructing expatriate students in public schools to pay overdue fees from the past few years.
  • The total amount overdue was reported as AED 192 million from 15,750 students. Since the statement referred to students in "public schools", presumably that means that students in private schools still have to pay up any outstanding amounts.
Advance payment of school tuition fees and fee payment deadlines in Dubai and the UAE
  • 2012 - KHDA information says "a school may charge up to 30 per cent of the school's tuition fees as an admission fee to confirm that selected students will opt to take up the offered places"
  • 17 Apr 2012 - school fee payment schedules will be decided by the Dubai or UAE government (or both) according to media reports, apparently in response to schools attempting to charge parents more than a term or semester in advance. Mohammed Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission at the KHDA was quoted as saying "As per the current regulations, school fees are due and payable on the first day of the semester or the month. However KHDA will, in line with the requirements and requests from schools and parents, specifically set the timing for the payment of the fees."
  • 23 Feb 2009 - schools in Dubai (and apparently the rest of the UAE) are only permitted to ask for fees up to a maximum of one term or semester in advance, and only at the beginning of the term or semester. A press release from the KHDA dated 23 February 2009 said, in reference to complaints from parents about schools trying to collect fees earlier than the beginning of the relevant semester: As per Article 52.1 of the Private Education bylaw from the Ministry of Education this is illegal and not permissible. The article clearly states that schools can only collect school fees at the beginning of each semester or month and cannot force the parents to pay any fees in advance.
Registration, admission, and application fees in Dubai
  • Many, or most, schools ask for an application fee when parents apply to enrol their children (might also be referred to as a registration or admission fee).
  • In most cases this is non-refundable if a place is offered but not taken by the student, but should be deducted from the first payment of tuition fees if an offer is accepted.
  • It is common for parents to apply to several schools in an attempt to secure a place for their offspring, but this of course starts to get expensive, especially with some schools charging several thousand dirhams as an application fee.
  • A UAE federal law limited the application fee to AED 500 until 2008, then a change in the law did not specify a minimum amount so schools charge what they like (they did anyway).
  • The KHDA in Dubai announced in 2009 that schools in Dubai were not allowed to charge more than AED 500 for application fees, but schools did anyway, and some continue to. In 2010, the KHDA isn't saying anything (so far - January 2010). A press release from the KHDA dated 23 February 2009, referring to the issue of schools charging fees for the new academic year before the end of the previous one said To resolve this issue Article 52.2 allows the school to take a small deposit or registration fee. This deposit or registration fee should not be more than five per cent of the total fees with a maximum of AED500 per child.
Assistance with school fees in the UAE

Parents looking for financial assistance should try asking at the school first - they might help with payment rescheduling, or suggest organisations that could help. Or try contacting ADEC in Abu Dhabi or the KHDA in Dubai - they won't offer financial assistance themselves as far as we know, but might have suggestions for where to go.

  • Indian Community Welfare Committee - helps Indian parents who need financial support for school fee payments.
  • Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation - helps expat parents who need financial support for paying school fees.
  • Zakat Fund Iqra program.
School fee increases in Dubai 2013-2014
  • 04 Sep 2013 - it was reported that the KHDA approved tuition fee increase requests from 17 schools for the 2013-2014 academic year. Some fee increases started in 2012-2013, and some would be spread over 3-4 years. The KHDA reduced the usefulness of this information to almost zero by not supplying the names of the schools increasing their fees.
School fee increases in Dubai 2012-2013
  • 11 Sep 2012 - 123 schools in Dubai applied for a fee increase, and 117 schools were permitted by the KHDA to increase fees for 2012-2013. Fee increases for most of them were 3%, 4.5%, or 6%. Some schools were permitted a higher exceptional fee increase - 25 out of the 35 which applied. Some school fee figures (KHDA data):
    • Average annual fees per student for private schools in Dubai is AED 17,172.
    • Total of 207,118 students attend 148 private schools in Dubai.
    • Total fees to be collected by private schools in Dubai is AED 3.52 billion (KHDA figures seem off slightly, by our calculations the total fees should be AED 3.56 billion or the average fees per student should be AED 16,995).
  • 08 Jun 2012 - 117 schools in Dubai (out of 146 private schools) have applied to the KHDA for permission to increase fees. Names of schools not released but the KHDA said 83 requests had been approved. Of the 29 schools that hadn't applied, 12 wanted to keep fees unchanged, and the other 17 schools hadn't been in operation long enough (minimum of 3 years before a school can apply for a fee increase).
  • 12 May 2012 - 53 schools in Dubai have applied for fee increases, school names not released. KHDA reportedly said they would release names when increases had been finalized. So far 25 applications have been approved but their names weren't released (Emirates 24-7 report).
  • 08 May 2012 - 27 schools in Dubai have applied to the KHDA to increase fees for the 2012-2013 academic year according to a Khaleej Times report, following the announcement in April 2012 of a new fee increase structure depending on the 2012 school inspection reports. Names of schools not supplied or reported.
  • 05 May 2012 - a fee increase at some GEMS schools of 10% was already permitted by the UAE MOE in 2010. Those schools can not apply the additional KHDA increase according to news reports.
  • 08 Apr 2012 - the KHDA announced that private schools in Dubai would be permitted to increase school fees once every 3 years from 3% and 6% depending on their school inspection reports and an Educational Cost Index (ECI) established by the Dubai Statistics Center (3% at the time of the announcement). Schools less than 3 years old would not be allowed to increase fees. The new fee regulations also allow schools to charge up to 10% of the tuition fees as a deposit when students re-register, and up to 30% as an admission fee for new students. Schools are supposed to apply to the KHDA within 30 days of inspection results being publicly announced if they want to increase fees. The permitted fee increases are:
    • 3% for schools rated unsatisfactory or acceptable.
    • 4.5% for schools rated good.
    • 6% for schools rated outstanding.
    • More than 6% in exceptional circumstances, for example not-for-profit schools, embassy managed schools, special needs schools, schools investing in facilities expansion. If a fee increase is awarded in these cases, fees are then frozen for the next 3 years.
  • 01 Apr 2012 (Al Ittihad / Alittihad newspaper) - The UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) is working on new rules for school fee increases after a poll was conducted in which just over half the parents surveyed said they were not happy with current tuition fees in UAE private schools (we're surprised that that implies almost half of them were happy with the current structure - we would have expected most to complain). The opinion poll was conducted by the MOE and the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR). Unknown how random the survey was or how large a sample size was used. Currently private schools can increase fees 5%-10% each year, or 10%-20% every 2 years, or 20%-30% every 3 years ... except in Dubai depending on whether you listen to the KHDA or the Ministry of Education.
    • School fees in Dubai might increase for the 2012-2013 academic year (they were frozen for 2011-2012 according to a Dubai Executive Council (DEC) ruling, except for some exceptions where some schools were permitted to ignore the regulation and increase fees anyway).
    • As of 03 March 2012, the KHDA is still reviewing school fee policy (leaving schools and parents in the dark about whether or not school fees will be permitted to increase, and by how much). Mohammad Darwish, head of the KHDA Regulations and Compliance Commission was quoted by the Gulf News as saying "KHDA is currently working with other concerned government entities to come up with a comprehensive fee framework. It will be announced soon"
School fee increases in Dubai 2007-2012
  • The KHDA regulates (apparently - some schools in Dubai seem to be able to get away with ignoring KHDA school fee regulations) private school fee increases in Dubai, and has imposed the following rules or guidelines
    • 2011-2012 academic year update - fees frozen in Dubai by the Dubai Executive Committee according to 01 March 2011 media reports. Gulf News quoted the KHDA Regulation and Compliance Commission on 02 March 2011 as saying "As many as 36 schools had applied for fee hikes ranging from three to 50 per cent, for the academic year 2011-2012." Not clear what will happen at schools that had fee increases approved by the MOE in February 2011.
    • 2011-2012 academic year - in February 2011 the UAE Ministry of Education allowed some schools to increase fees by up to 10% in the next 3 years according to media reports. Some GEMS schools fee increases (again) were announced in February 2011.
    • 29 schools in Dubai requested permission from the KHDA to increase school fees in 2011 according to news reports in February 2011. The schools were not named, and unknown which ones, if any, received permission to increase their fees.
    • 28 February 2011 - WAM reported that the Dubai Executive Council (DEC) approved a recommendation (presented by the social development committee) calling for keeping tuition fees at private schools unchanged in academic year 2011. Nevertheless, several GEMS schools in Dubai were given permission by the UAE MOE to increase fees a couple of weeks earlier.
    • 2010-2011 academic year - no fee increase allowed unless with special permission (for example due to building improvement or campus location change)
    • 2009-2010 academic year - fee increases of between 5% and 16% permitted depending on KHDA school inspection rating for 2009.
    • 2008-2009 academic year - maximum fee increase of 16% every two years permitted i.e. no or lower increase if school fees had risen in the previous year.
    • 2007-2008 academic year, fee increases of a maximum of 16% were permitted by the KHDA / Dubai Education Council.
  • The UAE Ministry of Education in a 2008 decree set a maximum of 30% fees increase in every 3 years on a sliding scale - 10% if no increase made in the previous year, 20% if no increase in the previous 2 years, and 30% if no increase in the previous 3 years.
    • On 20 February 2011, The National reported that the UAE MOE was preparing new regulations for private schools in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
  • On 10 May 2010, Arabian Business reported that the CEO of Taaleem Schools, Ziad Azzam, said about the KHDA linking fee increases to school performance: "I have issues with that. It doesn't make logical sense to me, ... As soon as you introduce a link between fee increases and the ranking it becomes by its nature punitive and that's counterproductive."
KHDA school fee freeze March 2010
  • The KHDA asked schools not to increase fees for the 2010-2011 academic year according to a letter in March 2010. Media reports quoted Mohammed Darwish, head of the KHDA Regulations and Compliance Commission as saying "We would be concerned to have such requests resubmitted, as we feel we have made the case very clear," in reference to school fee increases.
  • The same (or another statement) also said "Therefore KHDA after analysing the situation (from all aspects) in the past year does not see a valid reason for the schools to increase their fees." Exemptions might be allowed for schools moving to new premises or making other large capital expenditures.
  • Parents were happy, schools were not, especially schools catering to low-income families. Those schools are more likely to have been subject to a negative KHDA rating due to run-down facilities and poor teaching (or poor incentives for teaching well). The schools say they need to increase fees to improve things.
  • The KHDA tuition fee freeze for 2010-2011 prompted the GEMS Dubai Chairman, Sunny Varkey, to issue statements to the press saying some of their schools might have to close if they were not allowed to increase fees. Dubai Central School and Emirates English Speaking School were also reported as struggling to cover costs.
  • Mr Varkey said in a letter to the KHDA about the fees freeze that "Today, we have come to a stage where it is impossible to run old schools at less than half the price of the new ones because we have been losing our quality teachers to the new schools on account of our inability to offer competitive salaries"
  • A 17 March 2010 report in the Khaleej Times (KT) said that 8 of the 23 Asian schools in Dubai, including the Indian High School in Dubai, had asked the KHDA for approval to impose a 12-15% fee increase, but the KHDA rejected their requests. Mr Darwish of the KHDA was reported to have said "The KHDA wants school owners to think again ... How can you justify a fee increase in these times?"
May 2010 Dubai school fee increases
  • In May 2010 there was a conflict between the KHDA in Dubai and the federal UAE education ministry reported in the UAE press, given that the KHDA had already said Dubai schools should not increase fees.
  • Several schools had increased fees anyway, apparently with the approval of the UAE Ministry of Education (MOE) which seemed to have overruled the KHDA.
  • The Gulf News reported 14 May 2010 that 6 schools had had increases approved by the MOE, and that Humaid Al Qutami, the UAE Minister of Education, said "We have considered requests from schools on an individual basis and have approved increases within the federal parameters,"
  • The National reported on 15 May 2010 that Ali al Suwaidi, the Director General of the UAE Ministry of Education, told them that schools in the UAE "have the right to increase their fees according to the [ministry] bylaws."
  • The same report then said Mohammed Darwish, the head of the KHDA's Regulations and Compliance Commission, said Dubai schools were not allowed to raise fees without permission from his agency. No school in Dubai has been given that OK, he said.
  • The Gulf News reported that Mr Darwish said "KHDA has not yet approved any fee increase for any schools this year ... No school in Dubai can change its fee structure unless KHDA confirms this to the respective school in writing. This is imperative as all schools operate under KHDA's mandate and are issued Educational Services Permits by the Authority. Additionally, no fee changes can be implemented once the academic year has already begun."
  • Despite the apparent disagreement between the KHDA and the MoE about fee increases, on 19 May 2010, The National reported that Mohammed Darwish at the KHDA said "KHDA constantly works in cooperation with the MoE on all education-related matters, including school fees,"
  • The Khaleej Times on 13 May 2010 reported that "The largest education provider in the United Arab Emirates, GEMS, has announced a 10-15 per cent fee hike in at least four of its schools in Dubai for the academic year 2010-2011" but didn't say which schools.
  • The National said: Richard Forbes, the director of marketing and communications for Gems, said the increases were "essential to ensure the sustainability" of its older Indian schools. The move will allow the company to increase teachers' salaries. We expect GEMS School teachers won't be holding their breaths for the implied salary increases coming their way.
  • Schools attempting to increase fees, including some of the GEMS schools (which won't surprise many parents), might be:
  • On 19 May 2010, two Taaleem schools were reported as being given permission by the KHDA to increase fees by up to 20% for 2010-2011.
  • The Gulf News said: Mohammad Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission at KHDA said in a statement issued to the media that Article No. 2 - of the Ministerial decree No. 203/1 of 2008 which refers to exemptions to fee increases - has been enforced in Taaleem's case. Which sounded confusing, perhaps they meant exemption to fee freeze, not increase?
  • A 20 May 2010 report in the Gulf News included the Sharjah OOEHS as possibly increasing fees - "... the 10 to 15 per cent increase announced by at least four GEMS-run schools like Our Own English High School in Sharjah ..."
  • The Khaleej Times (KT) reported on 25 May 2010 that the KHDA in Dubai had said parents should not pay school fee increases not authorised by the KHDA, and they were entitled to ask schools to show them authorisation notice from the KHDA, in reference to previous reports that some Dubai schools had school fee increases approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE) but not the KHDA.
  • Mohammed Darwish at the KHDA said to the KT "No increase in school fees is effective and payable unless the school receives written approval from the KHDA," and that in Dubai, apart from the 2 Taaleem schools (AAG and Uptown), "No other hike in school fees has been approved,"
  • And the saga continued on 26 May 2010 with a report in The National quoting Humaid al Qattami, the UAE Minister of Education, as saying "If you are a private school and I'm a local authority, and we have a dispute, we have to refer to the relevant departments," and about schools with low fees "How can you tell them not to increase [fees]? They will go bankrupt."
  • On 05 June 2010, the Gulf News (GN) reported that talks were underway to resolve the disagreement between the KHDA and the MOE about fee increases in Dubai schools.
    • The UAE Minister of Education, Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami said "It will be soon clear who has the power to do what and in which areas,"
    • While Mohammad Darwish at the KHDA said "[The] KHDA believes the MoE decision is an unbudgeted expense for families and will be difficult to implement as it comes after the current academic year has begun. Discussions with the MoE for the same are currently under way,"
    • As for jurisdiction, the GN obtained a comment from Maisa Gadeer, a member of the UAE Federal National Council (FNC), who said "According to article five of the Decree No 30 issued in 2006, under which KHDA is formed, it is the sole authority to license, regulate and control schools in Dubai,"
    • So that's all clear then ... as mud.
  • The school fee spat ... er ... discussion between the KHDA and the MOE appears to be continuing via the press with a curious report in Emirates Business 24-7 on 19 August 2010
    • Ministry of Education is planning to execute a new system to regulate and organise private schools fees before the end of this year, Maryam Salmeen, Director of Private Schools Supervision and Monitoring Office at the ministry, was quoted as saying by 'Emarat Al Youm'. Emarat Al Youm is an Arabic newspaper in the UAE.
    • Salmeen added that the ministry will not allow any increase in school fees before completing the implementation of the new system, and conducting final assessment for all the schools. Except the MOE did allow some schools to increase fees - in May 2010 - contrary to what the KHDA was saying.
    • She pointed out that earlier, the ministerial decisions which allowed private schools to increase fees came at the time of economic boom. This made the ministry allow the increase and parents did not get affected by that. Which sounds odd - the MOE approved some fee increases in May 2010, hardly an economic boom time in any country or city, especially Dubai. And a number of parents were quite vocal in making it clear that they were affected by the increases, which Ms Salmeen apparently understood with another comment when she reportedly said "We received many complaints from parents because of the regular increase in school fees. That is why we are coming up with the new fees regulating system."
    • She added that when the ministry noticed that some private schools do not adhear to the ministry's decisions, it came up with a ministerial decree to solve the problem. This includes the ministry's approval for all fees increase. This would still seem to contradict what the KHDA thinks about who gives approval or denial for school fee increases.
School fees in Abu Dhabi
  • 2012-2013 - about 30 private schools received approval from ADEC to increase 2012-2013 fees by up to 9%, out of 67 schools that applied for an increase, according to a GN report 30 Aug 2012 of comments by Hamad Al Daheri, Executive Director for Private Schools and Quality Assurance at ADEC. Names of schools which increased fees not supplied.
  • For 2011-2012, the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) said (20 July 2011, and again on 17 August 2011):
    • Out of 181 private schools in the emirates of Abu Dhabi, 121 schools would not increase fees for tuition, books, uniforms or transport.
    • 20 schools were denied permission to increase tuition fees.
    • Of the 60 schools permitted an increase, 31 in Abu Dhabi, 24 in Al Ain, 5 in Western Region (Al Garbia). Curriculums followed are 18 with UAE MOE curriculum, 19 with US or UK, 14 with Asian, the other 9 following IB, French, Canadian or Japanese. Average increase of 6.6% for tuition fees, 5.3% for books, 12.3% for transport, 0.7% for uniforms. Requested increases ranged from 5-208% for fees, 5-339% for books, 10-129% for transport, and 5-371% for uniforms.
    • Actual increases and school names not supplied.
  • For 2010-2011, maximum permitted increase by ADEC is 5%? Other reports said up to 20% increase allowed? Unknown if that can be overruled by the UAE MOE, as in Dubai.
  • A report in Al Ittihad newspaper 01 September 2010 said ADEC had received applications from some schools for fee increases of up to 100%, but limited them to a 5% rise - quoting the ADEC adviser Yousuf Al Shiryani as saying "... we approved only those which asked for a five per cent rise and only in some special cases,"
School fee increases in Sharjah
  • 27 April 2012 - The Gulf Today reported that the Head of the Private Education Department at the Sharjah Educational Zone (SEZ), Hissa Al Khajah, said that no school is allowed to increase tuition fees, except after obtaining a permit approving the increase according to the regulations which were set by the Ministry of Education regarding the private education sector in the country.
  • 06 July 2010 - Up to 35 private schools in Sharjah have been given approval by the Sharjah Education Zone (SEZ) to increase school fees by 15%-30% for 2010-2011 according to a Khaleej Times report 06 July 2010 of statements made by Fawziya Hassan, Director of the SEZ, on 05 July 2010. The names of the schools were not reported. The director said that Sharjah schools were permitted fee increases of 5%-10% after 1 year, 10%-20% after 2 years, and 20%-30% after 3 years of no increases.
References
  1. School Fees Framework, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, 2012.
Last update Tuesday 11-Mar-2014. Page development 5C.
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