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Dubai to allow small increase in school fees after freeze last year hit GEMS IPO

DUBAI (Reuters) - Dubai will allow a modest increase in school fees for the majority of students in the 2019-2020 academic year, the government said, after last year's freeze triggered a delay in the London listing of a major school operator.

The move is likely to provide some reprieve for private investors such as private equity firms, who own most of the schools in the country, a Gulf Arab state that acts as a Middle East hub for international companies.

Last year's move to freeze Dubai school had hit the initial public offering of Blackstone-backed, Middle East-focused education company GEMS, Reuters had reported, citing sources.

The London listing was delayed after authorities in Dubai unexpectedly decided to freeze tuition fees, meaning the company's financial forecasts had to be adjusted, they said.

Dubai's move last year to freeze school fees came amid a number of other measures to cut costs in a bid to stimulate the economy that has been hurt by a downturn in property prices.

The Dubai government said it will allow an increase in school fees for 90 percent of students by a maximum 2.07 percent from the 2019-2020 academic year.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the crown prince and son of Dubai's ruler, approved the new framework where the Dubai School Inspection Bureau will assess the quality of education in each school against its index and rank them accordingly.

Schools in which the quality of education is declining according to the government's index will not be allowed to increase their fees.

Only 10 percent of the students in Dubai will have their fees increased by more than 2.07 percent, it said.

(Reporting by Tuqa Khalid; Editing Saeed Azhar and Louise Heavens)