Prestige and the weak pound draw wealthy Arabs to UK schools

Eton College in Berkshire is among the British public schools that have a long standing association with the children of rich families from the Middle East. (Reuters)
Updated 13 August 2017

Prestige and the weak pound draw wealthy Arabs to UK schools

LONDON: Enrollment of Middle East students to Britain’s top public schools is on the rise, as the country’s leading educational establishments draw an increasing mix of international pupils.
Britain’s most prestigious schools are set to welcome a fresh intake of international students in the next three weeks as the 2017/18 academic year gets underway.
Enrollments in British schools from the Middle East rose by almost 14 percent over the last year, according to the Independent Schools Council (ISC).
From the £39,000-a-year ($50,000) Harrow School, where many of the Jordanian royal family were educated, to Eton College, previously attended by royals including Kuwait’s Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah – British public schools have long been popular with the region’s wealthy elite.
They are increasingly being joined by students from Asia.
Chinese students make up the highest proportion of overseas pupils by far, with the number of Chinese pupils in UK private schools increasing by more than 190 percent in the past 10 years.
According to Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report, the number of ultra-high net worth individuals worldwide – including the Middle East — has jumped by 42 percent in the last decade to 193,000, and these super-rich are looking overseas to educate their children.
In a survey of nearly 900 private bankers and wealth advisers, 40 percent with clients in the Middle East said the super-rich individuals they work with – earning $30 million or over – are more likely to look overseas for a good school for their children than to educate them in their own country.
The Knight Frank survey also stated that the UK is set to become especially attractive to the ultra-wealthy, now that the fallen value of the pound has made it cheaper to send their children to UK private schools.
Liam Bailey, global head of research, Knight Frank, told Arab News: “The UK has been always been a preferred choice for education and, as more wealth is created, around the world there are more parents who can afford this education.”
Bailey said that as economies have become more globalized, “the benefits of an English education have become more important.” He added: “UK schools have become more diverse over time and are now seen as a place to build international networks for students.”
Bailey commented that Britain’s weak pound would likely be a contributing factor to the country’s schooling appeal, although it would not be “the first driver.”
Duncan Quirk, marketing manager at Education Advisers, said that most students in UK private schools come from backgrounds where the fees are of little relevance.
“British boarding school fees are above the average UK annual wage, so it can be argued that a 10-15 percent difference in exchange makes little difference to the real affordability of these schools. Does a 15 percent reduction of something very expensive change its affordability? Not really,” he said.
However, Quirk conceded that international parents are now likely comparing these fees with what they pay for the private schools in the Middle East.
“Perhaps they realize that the excess required to study in the UK has now narrowed, making UK boarding schools a more attractive proposition in comparison to what is available at home.”
Quirk also said he has witnessed more parents from the Middle East region requesting impartial advice on boarding school choices over the past five years.
He said: “While the majority of our inquiries used to be from British expats, recent years have seen us receive a growing number of advice requests from Middle Eastern parents. We also receive almost weekly requests from people looking to leverage our expertise and start their own education advice businesses in the Middle East region.”
Quirk said he expected the UK’s schools to welcome many more Middle East students in the coming years because the market for global education has matured rapidly in the region.
“Parents are much more well-informed than they used to be, and want to provide the best possible education for their children. There are plenty of international schools in the Middle East, but parents are becoming increasingly aware that these rarely match the academic achievements and extra-curricular opportunities set by their UK counterparts. There is also so much more choice in the UK, so they can find a school which is the best match for their child’s ability and aspirations.”
Quirk added that the students themselves are more interested in studying overseas than they were a generation ago.
“The Internet and globalization has seen to that and needs no further explanation. Middle East students know the UK is a great place to come for both their academic and personal development.”
According to Dean Hoke, co-founder and principal of Edu Alliance, a higher education consulting firm based in Abu Dhabi, the UK education system is reaping the spoils of being a major influence in the GCC region “for the past 150 years”.
He said: “Many of the leaders of the region attended British schools and universities over the years and the quality of British education is held in high regard. To this day the UK is still a desirable international location for their children to attend school if they are not staying in their home country.”


Indian soldiers unarmed and caught by surprise in China clash, families say

Soldiers await a visit by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India's Himalayan desert region of Ladakh, India, July 3, 2020, in this still image taken from video. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 July 2020

Indian soldiers unarmed and caught by surprise in China clash, families say

NEW DELHI: Indian soldiers who died in close combat with Chinese troops last month were unarmed and surrounded by a larger force on a steep ridge, Indian government sources, two soldiers deployed in the area and families of the fallen men said.
One of the Indian soldiers had his throat slit with metal nails in the darkness, his father told Reuters, saying he had been told by a fellow soldier who was there.
Others fell to their deaths in the freezing waters of the Galwan river in the western Himalayas, relatives have learned from witnesses.
Twenty Indian soldiers died in the June 15 clash on the de facto border separating the two armies. The soldiers all belonged to the 16th Bihar Regiment deployed in the Galwan region.
No shots were fired, but it was the biggest loss of life in combat between the nuclear-armed neighbors since 1967, when the simmering border dispute flared into deadly battles.
Reuters spoke to relatives of 13 of the men who were killed, and in five cases they produced death certificates listing horrific injuries suffered during the six-hour night-time clash at 14,000 ft (4,267 meters) amid remote, barren mountains.
Reuters contacted the military hospital in India’s Ladakh region where the bodies were brought. The hospital declined to comment on the cause of death and said that the bodies were sent to the families along with the death certificates.
Reuters also spoke to two soldiers of the Bihar Regiment deployed in the area, who were among those who accompanied the bodies of fallen colleagues to their homes in the area. They were not directly involved in the melee.
The soldiers cannot be named because of military rules and all the families asked for anonymity because they said they were not supposed to speak about military matters.
The Indian defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the fighting on June 15.
In response to a Reuters query, a China foreign ministry spokesperson repeated previous statements blaming the Indian side for crossing the de facto border and provoking the Chinese.
“When Chinese officers and soldiers went there to negotiate, they were suddenly and violently attacked by the Indian troops,” the spokesperson said. “The rights and wrongs of the incident are very clear. The responsibility absolutely does not lie with the Chinese.”
China has not provided evidence of Indian aggression. China’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

’ARTERIES RUPTURED’
Three of the dead men had their “arteries ruptured in the neck” and two sustained head injuries caused by “sharp or pointed objects,” the death certificates seen by Reuters said.
There were visible marks on the neck and forehead, all five documents said.
“It was a free-for-all, they fought with whatever they could lay their hands on — rods, sticks, and even with their bare hands,” said a government official in Delhi briefed on the clash.
The Indian government has said that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) acted in a premeditated manner, but it has not provided a full account of the clash that stunned the country and stoked popular anger against China.
China has dismissed an Indian government minister’s claim that China had lost 40 soldiers from the PLA’s western theater command deployed in Galwan.
Its envoy to Delhi suggested in remarks to local media and posted on the embassy website that there had been losses on both sides.
“The Indian army suddenly and violently attacked the Chinese officers and soldiers who went for negotiation, causing fierce physical conflicts and casualties between the two sides,” Sun Weidong said.
Indian government officials have told Reuters that the conflict began when the commanding officer of the Bihar regiment led a small party to Patrol Point 14 to verify whether the Chinese had made good their promise to withdraw from the disputed site and dismantle structures they had built there.
But instead they came under attack by Chinese soldiers using iron rods and wooden clubs with nails studded in them on a narrow ledge barely four meters wide overlooking the Galwan river.

BODIES FOUND IN RIVER
In recent weeks the world’s two most populous countries have mobilized more forces along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC), and the renewed hostilities have triggered a diplomatic and commercial spat that threatens to escalate, experts including former Indian military officers say.
The possibility that unarmed Indian soldiers were overrun by a larger force could further fuel resentment against China and raise questions about why Indian soldiers were sent to a tense frontline without being armed.
“How dare China kill our unarmed soldiers. Why were our soldiers sent unarmed to martyrdom?” Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party wrote in a tweet, demanding the government provide a full account.
A relative of one of the soldiers who accompanied Col. Santosh Babu, the commanding officer, to the site of two tents erected by the Chinese troops told Reuters that members of the Indian patrol were unarmed.
They were confronted by a small group of Chinese soldiers and an argument ensued over the tents and a small observation tower the relative said, on the basis of conversations with two other soldiers who were present.
Reuters was unable to establish all of the details of what happened, but government officials in New Delhi briefed on the incident said that at some point Indian troops took down the observation post and the tents because they were on India’s side of the LAC.
Soon after the Indian side came under attack from a large Chinese force that pelted them with stones and attacked them with sharp-edged weapons, according to the families of three dead Indian soldiers, based on conversations they had with survivors.
Some soldiers retreated to safety on the ridgeline in the darkness, but when they could not find the commanding officer, they re-emerged and came under fresh attack, four family members said.
Babu was among those killed in the fighting, the Indian government said. One of the soldiers deployed in the area that Reuters spoke to said the Indian patrol was outnumbered by the PLA.
“The Chinese side overwhelmed our people by sheer numbers,” said the soldier, who overheard radio messages seeking reinforcements being sent to regional headquarters in Ladakh.
Three of the Indian families said they had been told by soldiers who were commissioned to bring the bodies back to them that some combatants pushed each other into the fast-flowing Galwan river.
The government official in Delhi also said bodies of some soldiers were fished out of the river the next morning. Some had succumbed to hypothermia, the official added.