Dubai international schools reducing fees as expat applications decline

Dubai international schools reducing fees as expat applications decline

Dubai international schools reducing fees as expat applications decline

A major downside of expat family life in the UAE is the enormous expense of international private school education, but are providers now seeing the light?

From annual swingeing increases to already extortionate fees, long waiting lists and even longer lists of extras to all the other expenses associated with private education in the UAE, expat parents could be forgiven for wishing they’d chosen another destination. However, years of lashing out against the system and those who’re milking an entire herd of captive cash cows may well be bearing fruit at last. One report issued just two years ago by HSBC estimated parents in the UAE spend almost $100,000 in total on the three stages of their child’s education – over twice the global average.

Nowadays, it seems what goes up must come down, as parents now hold the winning cards due to increased competition and a declining customer base. Expat families are moving on to less expensive destinations and the UAE’s economy is becoming shakier. According to one prominent education adviser, it’s a buyers’ market at last, as the supply of suitable private schools now excludes demand for their services. Over the past 18 months, several schools have been forced to close due to lack of interest impacting their financial bottom lines. Others are merging, with the overall effect meaning Dubai expat parents have more and better choices at far less cost.

The increasing competition is also resulting in bursaries, scholarships and discounts being offered by schools struggling to stay in business, with fee reductions of up to 33 per cent in some cases. Newly-opened schools are undercutting their established rivals by considerable amounts, although the strategy is considered dangerous to their business models. Pressure on providers is expected to surge in 2019 as the total number of Dubai’s private education institutes hits up to a massive 282. Due to this saturation level, school investors are now shying away from the UAE and considering China, Southeast Asia and post-Brexit Europe, with the increasing numbers of expat professionals leaving the UAE for more politically secure posts elsewhere in the world are exacerbating the issue.

Expat parents are taking a hard line on the entire private education system and its greed, with one mum with two teenagers saying the schools are ‘disconnected from reality’ as regards their overpricing and the suspect quality of their teaching. Aggressive marketing and annual increases demonstrate it’s all about the money, and not about ensuring expat children have a bright future. They’re selling education, she says, as if it’s real estate, with the discounts simply demonstrating their ridiculous profit margins. Expats, she adds, are leaving once their children get to a certain age.

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