Demand for premium and super-premium schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is running ahead of supply, according to Taaleem's CEO. The company has come up with another set of solid financials for the latest quarter. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The DFM-listed Taaleem aims to have two schools under the UK’s pre-eminent Harrow brand in the UAE by the start of the academic year in September of 2026.

But meeting that timeline will be ‘subject to getting all the regulatory approvals from the education authority in Dubai and Abu Dhabi’, said Alan Williamson, CEO of Taaleem. It was recently that the Dubai headquartered company confirmed it had acquired the Gulf-wide rights for Harrow, which along with Eton is at the center of the UK’s public school education space. Through the centuries, both have been the go to place for British royals, the aristocrats, prime ministers and more.

“We are on track with the land for these schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and on track with where we need to be on the regulatory approval side,” said the CEO.

Harrow schools
One of two stellar public schools in the UK, Harrow has been expanding its presence in overseas markets, including China. The UAE and Gulf become its latest entry point.. Image Credit: Supplied

In Dubai, the Harrow School will be in Hessa Street, while Saadiyat Island will host the Abu Dhabi school

Spending on Harrow Schools

Each Harrow School will require capex ‘in excess of Dh300 million’ against the typical Dh180 million to Dh200 million to build a premium school in the UAE, according to Williamson.

BUS 230824 Taleem CEO Alan VSAKLANI (14)-1694148497231
Alan Williamson of Taaleem: "Sure, the capex on launching a Haroow school will be much higher, in excess of Dh300 million each..." Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

On whether Taaleem intends to open Harrow schools elsewhere in the Gulf simultaneously, he said: “When it comes to Saudi Arabia, the intention is to open sometime closer to the Kingdom’s ‘Vision 2030’ dateline to bring in quality education. Our priority with Harrow is opening in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, of course, subject to approvals.

“As for Saudi Arabia, we are in talks with authorities in Riyadh about launching a new (non-Harrow) school there. It could also be a management contract. We do see potential to take a brand such as Al Raha International (with its IB curriculum) outside of the UAE.”

Another strong financial

For the first nine months of its financial year, Taaleem had revenues of Dh830.7 million (up 15 per cent year-on-year), from which it pulled out a profit tally of Dh277.6 million (up 38.9 per cent). It operates 32 schools in the UAE, adding another six through ongoing government partnerships.

Operating government schools on contract 'contribute a relatively minor portion' to Taaleem’s overall revenue in comparison to its own premium schools. These accounted for 11 per cent of revenue in first nine months of 2023-24. "These partnerships serve to bolster Taaleem’s track record with licensing bodies and facilitate solid cash generation at low risk and minimal cost," the company said in a statement.

Originating from Harrow School, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, our partnership with this distinguished education provider marks a pivotal milestone in our expansion strategy

- Alan Williamson of Taaleem

Capacity added came to over 9,000 students, which is an increase by more than 64 per cent. Which is why Williamson makes a point of saying, “Demand for UAE schools in the premium and super-premium category is running well ahead of supply. We will have a new school opening this September with the Dubai British School Jumeira.” (The capacity is for a further 1,900 students.)

In a statement, Khalid Al Tayer, Chairman of Taaleem, said: "Looking ahead to the upcoming academic year, we are poised to add approximately 2,400 seats to our premium segment, with the construction Dubai British School Jumeira now complete, and the expansion of Greenfield International School nearing completion."