Abu Dhabi: This year, Dubai College is celebrating its 30th anniversary, making it one of the longest-established schools in the Emirates.

Since its foundation in 1978, when it was an isolated landmark, with two small villas located in Jumeriah surrounded by sand, the college has developed into one of the top schools in the region. The school moved to its present site in 1980 and opened with one teaching block.

The original premises helped educate just over forty students. Today the school has 782 students, with a sixth form of 200 and a 950-seat auditorium due to be completed by the end of the year.

Following the move, a Dubai College (DC) Alumni group was established worldwide. Several hundred alumni still live in the UAE and plans are currently underway to formalise a regional alumni group.

DC follows the British curriculum from years 7 to 13 and is placed within the top 100 independent schools in the UK thanks to top academic results.

"After thirty years of growth and development we have obviously reached maturity, not only in terms of our physical resources but also in our traditions and values," said Eric Parton, the headmaster, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after serving 26 years at the college. "Pupils who join us very quickly tune-in to our ethos and the culture of success that runs through everything we do. We have been fortunate in that the teachers have provided continuity and stability - some have been here for twenty years and more, with the average length of stay around ten years."

According to Parton, DC has a large number of children from former students. Those early students left DC to continue their studies at university, after which many returned to Dubai to follow their chosen career path.

"Dubai College's not-for-profit status has been of central importance in the way the school has been managed. Inevitably, the board has had to make some tough decisions over the years. Not everything could happen at once, so priorities had to be carefully considered. But our yardstick has always been - and will continue to be - what is in the best interest of our students," said Parton.

Informal reunions among DC alumni's have always been the school's norm. Annual alumni reunions have taken place in London for ten years. Next week the first official reunion will be sponsored by the college itself, celebrating the school's 30th anniversary.

When Hassan Lakiss, head of mathematics, arrived at DC 26 years ago, he was accompanied by nine other teachers. The school then had a total of 30 teachers, compared with more than 70 today.

"DC was built for British expatriate children at first, but now we have over students from over 42 different nationalities," said Lakiss.