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Is a Battle for places at Dubai Top Schools Coming? KHDA records highest ever number of students as overseas Businesses and Families Rush to Dubai. 

Dubai private schools have recorded the highest ever enrolment figures in 2022 – topping 300,000 children studying at its facilities for the first time – as families flock to the emirate for its attractive lifestyle and world-class education.

Despite the challenges of the past years, Dubai private schools have smashed the emirate’s past student-enrolment record, with 303,262 students enrolled in Dubai’s private schools in 2022 – up from 289,019 in September 2021, which represents a growth of 4.9 per cent. The current figure is also the highest ever recorded, and is well above the pre-pandemic level of 295,148 children in 2019-2020.

Dr Abdulla Al Karam, Director General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) – which regulates Dubai schools – said:

“Dubai’s private schools have consistently focused on improvement and growth, even during challenging times. The record number of students reflects the trust and confidence that families place in schools.

School leaders and teachers have come together and collaborated to work towards Dubai’s aspiration to provide every student with a high-quality education grounded in wellbeing.

We’re grateful to educators, parents and students for being part of Dubai’s education community and for creating the future of education together.”


Legal reforms drive demand as UAE seen as top destination for business and families

The rise in school enrolment also reflects Dubai’s growing attractiveness as a lifestyle, business and investment destination, which has encouraged families from across the world to relocate to the city.

A slew of ground-breaking and progressive legal reforms within the past year have made Dubai a more enticing prospect than ever, with recent changes to its visa and employment laws making it much easier for parents with professional qualifications to relocate long-term to the emirate and sponsor their children – without necessarily even needing to find a job first.


Newly announced plans regarding Golden and Green visas – self-sponsored visas that enable professionals and freelancers to remain in Dubai on a 10 or 5 year renewable visa – means that the UAE is now turning into a destination that families can plan to stay in for the long haul, without the insecurity of being bound to one single employer for permission to stay in the country.

New families flood to Dubai

The rise in students at Dubai schools is part of a wider trend of population growth in the emirate. Dubai’s population has now passed the 3.5 million mark – Dubai Statistics Centre’s live population counter currently stands at 3,500,141 – representing a steady increase over the emirate’s history. Between 1960 and 2020, the number of people living in Dubai skyrocketed from 40,000 in 1960 to 3.3 million by the end of 2020, and the plan is for the population to hit 5.8 million by 2040, with major city-expansion plans in the pipeline.

Data from Dubai Statistics Center

All of this of course brings a high demand for new schools – and already this year we have seen the announcement of historical British school brands such Durham School Dubai set to open in August 2022, as well as innovative, homegrown UAE school brands such as Citizens School, and progressive new schools like Bloom World Academy all also set to open for the next academic year 2022-23.

According to newly released data by the KHDA, UK curriculum schools (35 per cent) remain the top choice for students followed by Indian curriculum (26 per cent) and US curriculum schools (16 per cent). Students studying in private schools represent a total of 187 nationalities, which shows the vast cultural diversity of the emirate’s student community.

Battle for school places…

Is a battle for places coming in the wake of record population growth in Dubai and a flood on businesses and families making Dubai home

After years of worries in the sector about over-supply of places, many now ask whether the new influx of families and businesses making Dubai, and the broader UAE, their home, will see a rebalancing of supply and demand. Pressures from the global economy, and the return of inflation, is seeing many families and businesses worldwide relooking at Dubai as a favourable destination for relocation.

Any increase in population could re-balance the equation that in recent years has seen an oversupply of places in Dubai schools, ensuring parents have both choice and power. Parents do not want a return to the days in which the balance of power between schools and parents reverses with a return to battling for places in top schools. There are also broader worries about fee increases coming ‘down the track’ for parents if schools no longer face such severe competition for places. Currently, a blanket ban on fee increases is in place from the school regulators for all for-profit schools.

Positively, Dubai currently has 215 schools providing 18 curriculum choices for 187 different student nationalities – the vast majority operating at standards well above equivalent schools overseas. It is predicted that, with new schools continuing to open in the UAE – and more coming downstream, the level of competition for places, and pressure downwards on fees, will maintain a status quo currently in parent’s favour, for at least the medium term.

For the latest school data, visit the KHDA website here.

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About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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