Investing in Private Schools in Abu Dhabi

Private Schools in Abu Dhabi Receive AED3.6 Billion of Investment

Interested in setting up a school in Abu Dhabi? Between 2011 and 2016 there was an estimated AED3.6 billion of investment in the private school sector. With continued development very much on the agenda, the emirate has become a very attractive place not only as a work and leisure destination, but also for foreign investors looking to boost their profits.

One high growth sector which is continuing to deliver investment opportunities is education, and with 7 new private schools opening this year alone opportunities and benefits exist both for investors and local businesses, as well as the families who have made Abu Dhabi their home.

In this article, James Swallow of PRO Partner Group discusses why the potential for new private schools in Abu Dhabi is something that all of us should get excited about.

Abu Dhabi continues to grow

As the city expands, the vision set out by the Government in Abu Dhabi Plan 2030 anticipates that the population distribution will change as new neighbourhoods are created. Ensuring that local infrastructure exists to support these population centres, which includes schools, is crucial to the long-term success and viability of the new areas. It is a logical step to suggest that there is a window of opportunity here for investors to boost their profits by setting up a school in Abu Dhabi.

Chart showing population centres by 2030

Chart showing population centres by 2030. Source: Abu Dhabi Plan 2030

Education remains a top priority

Achieving a world-class education system is seen as a priority by the Government, which aims to develop a generation who can make a valuable contribution to society and to the local economy. Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC), the quality assurance agency for the educational sector, delivered a report on how the private school sector has evolved over the last 10 years, and included projections of future demand for school seats.

With student numbers expected to grow by 5% annually and reach almost 284,000 by 2021, there is a drive for strategic partnerships to provide the number of school places to meet anticipated demand.

Chart showing projected school enrolment

Chart showing projected school enrolment. Source: ADEC Annual Report 2015/16

Interestingly, enrolment growth in British and American curriculum schools exceeded the average (13% and 9% respectively), suggesting that there is strong demand in this area, and could therefore present an attractive investment opportunity for suitable strategic business partners with a track record of educational excellence. The fact that there is a drive towards pushing up academic standards by attracting highly capable international partners is good news for all of us.

Choice, quality and affordability

With school fees in the emirate ranging from AED2,200 up to AED96,000 per year, most parents will agree that finding high quality affordable school places is one of their top priorities. British parent of two Rosie Seldon comments,

“There are some excellent schools in the city, but increasingly companies will no longer cover school fees as part of an employment package, and so the financial pressure on parents to find a good quality but affordable school is huge’’.

The Government is keen to ensure that there is sufficient provision of affordable education, particularly for those on lower incomes, but whether increasing choice will in fact stimulate market forces and fee competitiveness is as yet unclear. As the number of schools continues to grow in line with the population, so do the demands on quality assurance, and ensuring that there is consistency in the provision of education, regardless of fee category, is seen to be of the utmost importance.

Ready, steady…bid!

New schools will always require essential services in order to help them run smoothly, and this presents the ideal opportunity for enterprising local industries to meet demand for services such as school transportation, cleaning and laundry, catering, security, and office supplies, all of which are traditionally outsourced.

Now is the time to make sure your business is best positioned to quickly take advantage of opportunities to bid for product and service supply contracts as they arise. Reviewing your documentation and processes for submitting bids and proposals is vital if you are to meet tight deadlines. It may also be worth considering how easy it is for prospective customers to access information about your products and services, and ensuring that your website, social media and corporate literature all meet the needs of schools looking for suppliers.

Licensing

With 55 new schools and a total of 70,000 new seats created over the last 5 years, the Private Schools Quality Assurance agency (PSQA) has looked at ways of attracting the investment required to meet continued demand, and has streamlined the applications process for investors with a proven track record of educational excellence, wishing to set up and operate new private schools in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

For further information on how to apply for school licensing or any other related government liaison matter in the UAE and wider Gulf, or for advice on how to set up a business in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or the UAE, contact James Swallow, Director of PRO Partner Group, on james@propartnergroup.com or call a member of the team on:

T: +971 (0)4 456 1761 (Dubai)
T: +971 (0)2 448 5120 (Abu Dhabi)
james@propartnergroup.com