Dubai: Fewer than one in five UAE parents save or invest money towards their children’s education despite being the world’s second biggest spenders on education, a new report said on Monday.

On average, UAE parents spend around Dh365,000 ($99,378) on a child’s education from primary school to university, according to the 2017 HSBC UAE Value of Education: Higher and Higher report.

The figure is second only to Hong Kong, where parents spend an average of around Dh485,000 ($132,161).

As part of the global version of the report, at least 500 parents in the UAE participated in the latest edition of the annual research by HSBC. The parents included Emiratis and expats and reflected the demographics of the UAE, HSBC officials said during a press briefing about the report on Monday.

The parents’ spending covers tuition fees, educational books, transport and accommodation.

Despite the high education expenditure, “fewer parents (17 per cent) are funding their child’s education through a specific education savings or investment plan. The majority (68 per cent) depend on their day-to-day income (salaries). The report suggest many parents feel stretched thin to fund their child’s education, with more than two-thirds (64 per cent) willing to go into debt to provide for their child’s university studies.

They have also cut or stopped leisure activities and holidays (25 per cent), changed working styles (28 per cent) and forfeited “me time” or given up hobbies (25 per cent) to make sacrifices for their child’s education.

HSBC’s research also found that 53 per cent of parents in the UAE wish they had started saving earlier.

Meanwhile, 48 per of parents wish they had put more money aside for their child’s education and 23 per cent regret not taking professional advice.

Last year’s edition of the report said UAE parents are the world’s biggest spenders on their children’s university studies, paying around Dh67,439 ($18,360) annually on average — 140 per cent higher spending against the then global average.

The latest report for this year put the total university-level outlay by UAE parents at $36,834 for a three or four-year course — second only to what Hong Kong parents pay, at $55,012.

The global report surveyed more than 8,400 parents across 15 countries and territories. Singapore’s parents incur the third highest average total cost at $70,939.

“With the huge array of educational options available throughout a young person’s life, the total cost for parents is always likely to be both varied and high. For UAE parents who pay among the most in the world for education, planning to save as much as possible, as early as possible is a critical part of being prepared to meet these costs.” said Kunal Malani, regional head of customer value management, Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC, Mena.

The report also revealed that for parents in the UAE who would consider university education abroad, the UK (48 per cent) stands as the most popular destination of choice, followed by the US (47 per cent) and Australia (34 per cent) in third place.

Dina Kanan, the British Council’s Study UK manager, said: “In addition to an education fund, parents need to consider many factors when planning for a child’s future. This includes the education system they follow, subjects and specialisations, extra-curricular activities, academic references and track-record. This can be challenging for expat families that tend to move around a lot — so having a point of reference like the UK curriculum, for example, can give students a boost and provide parents some peace of mind.”

Box: What parents pay for education

Hong Kong: $132,161

UAE: $99,378

Singapore: $70,939

US: $58,464

Source: Value of Education: Higher and Higher (2017 HSBC)