Revealed: UAE's Top 20 Schools for Oxbridge

Here we detail which schools have been the most successful schools securing offers from Oxford and Cambridge, two of the most sought after universities in the world, that regularly top rankings for experience, student outcomes, prestige and research.
Revealed: UAE's Top 20 Schools for Oxbridge
By David Westley
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Dubai College has fallen just outside the top 10 in 12th place for international schools with the highest number of Oxbridge offers for 2021. It ranks 119th when competing against UK and international schools for Oxbridge entrance. 

The data was published in the UK's The Telegraph newspaper.

In 2021 the UAE's only academically selective school had 11 offers in total, four from Oxford and seven from Cambridge. It had a success rate of 20% - that is one offer for every five applications. 

In 2020 the school the school had 15 Oxbridge offers, a Covid-19 high following lean years in 2019 (5 offers), 2018 (9 offers) and 2017 (7 offers). Its peak year however was 2016 when it secured a hugely impressive 20 offers. 

Dubai College is by far the UAE's most successful school in terms of securing offers from Oxford and Cambridge. It is also far from being the most successful international school. The top 11 places all fall to schools in either China or Singapore. 

Topping the international ranking, and falling in second place even when competing with schools in the UK, is Raffles Junior College, Singapore, which consistently sends between 50 and 70 students each year to Oxbridge. That said, this is a highly selective pre-University college, that takes in students largely based on success at GCSEs. It is not for expats in Singapore, but takes students from across the local Singapore population. In third place is Singapore's Hwa Chong Institution (related to Hwa Chong International) (ranked 6th when including UK schools), also a local, secondary Singaporean School, which is seeing year on year rises for Oxbridge places. Given it has 4,000 students, and is again a highly selective secondary, its success while impressive, is also understandable. 

The top school in the world for Oxbridge entry remains Westminster School. This year it sent 79 students to Oxbridge, and had a success rate of 40%. Of the top 10 places globally, eight are UK based schools, four are UK state (free) schools, and four are independent (paid for) schools - Westminster, The Perse School, Eton and St Paul's Girls. The four high-performing state schools feature in third, fourth, fifth and seventh place in the rankings: Hills Road Sixth Form College, Peter Symonds College, Brampton Manor Academy, and Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College.

Elsewhere in the UAE

In second place in the UAE for 2021 was Brighton College Abu Dhabi with five offers, three from Cambridge and two from Oxford ("maximum", the exact number has been 'redacted'). It's a significant achievement for the College and the first time the Abu Dhabi school has made the Oxbridge list. Globally it ranks 505th. Note: Brighton College in the UK came 23rd, with 28 offers.

In third place is The English College, with four offers (two each from Oxford ands Cambridge. (This is the maximum number, the exact total has been redacted.). This is a standout year for EC with no data for previous years with "the volumes being too low".

The Top 20 UAE schools making the list, in order, include:

4th. Brighton College Al Ain, 1952nd globally inc UK
5th. Kings' Al Barsha
6th. Nord Anglia Dubai, 1972nd globally inc UK
7th. Al Diyafah High Schools, 2009th globally inc UK
8th. NLCS Dubai, 2010th globally inc UK
9th. BSAK, 2047th globally inc UK
10th. Jumeirah College, 2053rd globally inc UK
11th. Dubai British School, 2090th globally inc UK
12th. DIA, 2129th globally inc UK
13th. JESS, 2131st globally inc UK
14th. Deira International, 2132nd globally inc UK
15th. DESC, 2136th, globally inc UK
16th. GEMS World Academy, 2156th globally inc UK
17th. Raha International, 2160th globally inc UK
18th. Repton Dubai (2164th globally inc UK)
19th. GEMS Modern (2190th globally inc UK)
20th. Al Yasmina (2226th globally inc UK)
Bonus 21st. Sunmarke (2250th globally inc UK).

Beyond the headlines

WhichSchoolAdvisor.com loves giving parents data they can use to make better decisions, and we think the transparency regarding Oxbridge numbers can only be a good thing. However, it is always worth looking beyond headlines and doing your own analysis if you are trying to assess a school and its performance. 

Some, including Dubai College's principal Mr Michael Lambert, argue that percentage success rate is a better measure, for example, than a raw number of places. Take a school that only has a very small cohort of Year 12 students, and just two applicants to Oxbridge. If one of those gets a place, that school would have a percentage success rate of 50 percent. That would place it considerably ahead of Raffles Junior School which has a 25% success rate, despite it having a higher number of successful applications (77 to just 1). If all schools allowed their students to apply (and gave them an equal push), and students did not rule themselves out, then proponents of percentage success may have a fair point. However, there is also a strong argument that getting a quarter of 280 students into Oxbridge is harder than getting one in two, with all the focus two students would receive.

There are of course strengths and weaknesses in an argument for either metric. Our advice would be to look at both, and even then only to do so taking into consideration a host of further factors, not least:

  • Is the school inclusive, or selective? (If a school is non-selective and has a high number of entries / success rate, then it is clearly working a lot of magic)
  • What courses do the students get onto? (Some are considerably easier than others - law vs. theology for example. Schools that target Oxbridge will guide students to less competitive courses)
  • Does the school send a considerable number of students to other countries? (To the US, to Ivy League universities for example...)
  • Does the school consistently get Oxbridge places (something Dubai College does well), or is this year something of a one-off. Consistency is we believe probably the most important metric. 

Finally, please note, all schools from 3rd to 21st had a maximum of 4 offers, "with the exact total  redacted." Given all schools had a maximum of 4 places, it is not clear to us why they differ in The Telegraph ranking, but may have something to do with percentage of success or total students entered - the newspaper does not say. What is clear is that all schools here deserve praise. 

Note: The 2021 dataset relates to the cohort of students who applied to Oxbridge during the autumn term of 2020, ready to take up a place in October 2021 - assuming they did not take a gap year after finishing school. 

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