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‘Exceptional fee increase’ of 27% shocks parents

The Westminster School in Ghusais area, Dubai. The School is hiking fees.

Dubai: A Dubai school’s decision to hike its tuition fees by 27 per cent has left parents fuming over what they claim goes against the Knowledge and Human Development Authority’s (KHDA) fee framework, which depends on school ratings.

However, KHDA has said that one-time increases exceeding normal yearly increases can be granted when schools apply for it.

In the latest school inspection results announced on May 9, The Westminster School, Dubai was rated ‘good’ and was thus allowed an increase of 4.82 per cent for the next academic year 2016-2017.

This year, the KHDA allowed private schools to increase their fees by a minimum of 3.21 per cent and up to a maximum of 6.42 per cent. Only schools ranked ‘outstanding’ are eligible for the 6.42 per cent increase.

“We don’t know what to do. I have two children going to the same school and this means a 54 per cent increase for me. I have never heard of such an increase before,” said parent Abdul Sattar Memon from Pakistan.

Memon said parents were made aware of the hike by a circular from the school on May 9. “It was a very short notice for us. We don’t see another option other than moving the children to another school, but that, too, is going to be difficult, as we already paid 10 per cent of the tuition fees for the next academic year to reserve seats, before the new fee structure was announced and it’s non-refundable.”

Another parent, Tareq Jafar, from Pakistan, with two children in the same school, said the news means a fresh burden. “I’m hoping the school changes its decision. Their annual fee increase in the previous years has been very minimal, I don’t understand why the big jump. Our salaries don’t even increase by that much.”

Both parents said the hike is unaffordable for other parents as well. “We hope the school will reconsider the decision and think about the families,” said Memon.

A GEMS Education spokesperson told Gulf News that in this case the Westminster School, Dubai was granted an “exceptional fee increase” from the KHDA.

“In line with the Government of Dubai’s school fee framework, The Westminster School has fulfilled the criteria to be granted an exceptional fee increase. This increase, and communication of this increase, has also been approved by all relevant authorities. We shared this news with our parents as soon as we were able to.”

Mohammad Darwish, Chief of Regulations and Compliance Commission at KHDA, confirmed, “The exceptional fee increase framework [as approved by The Executive Council of Dubai and now part of the main fee framework] seeks to regulate fee restructuring for private schools operating in the emirate.”

“With the dual aim of increasing the quality of education in the emirate and ensuring a fair return on investment, the exceptional fee framework was revised, introducing an eligibility criteria and a structured evaluation process to assess the eligibility of schools for exceptional fee increases. The criteria has been inserted to ensure that investors are able to achieve a fair rate of return and the market continues to sustain investor interest and, in turn, offer improved and sustainable high-quality educational services to students and parents.”

Conditions for approval

Based on the KHDA school fee framework document posted online, the following are the conditions related to the approval of fee increase requests:

1) Schools will not be able to apply for exception until they have been in operation for at least six academic years

2) School occupancy level must be at least 80 per cent

3) Basic salary of teaching staff should be greater than or equal to 25 per cent of total expenses

4) Only one application would be allowed in a 12-month period

5) Retention of a qualified auditing firm, as defined, for undertaking the exercise required by KHDA

6) Have a rate of return below the prescribed threshold for the two most recently completed financial years

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