In the Beginning…

Cranleigh Abu Dhabi was born in late January 2011, when a group of Old Cranleighans based in Abu Dhabi introduced the School to members of the Board of Directors at TDIC. Visits to Abu Dhabi were followed by a high level visit to Cranleigh, leading to an agreement to work together to explore the possibilities of opening a school on Saadiyat Island in September 2014.

The Cranleigh ethos, based around the school moto, ‘Ex Cultu Robur – from Culture Comes Strength’, resonated perfectly with that of Saadiyat Island with its rich cultural identity.

A project team was formed and given a clear remit from both boards:

  • Get to know and understand each other
  • Conduct market research to see what size and type of school is needed on Saadiyat Island
  • Understand Cranleigh’s past and present but look forward to Cranleigh Abu Dhabi’s future
  • Research other schools to identify what could be done better
  • Find the right people to translate – not clone – Cranleigh UK into a Middle Eastern setting
  • Appreciate the responsibility you have to the children of Abu Dhabi
  • Get it built by September 2014!

4 - GalleryThe architectural firm of Godwin, Austen and Johnson (GAJ) were appointed to design the school in 2012, and on 18th November 2012 a Joint Venture Agreement was signed by TDIC and Cranleigh UK and their partners, The Royal Group, to open Cranleigh Abu Dhabi in September 2014.

Having gained the necessary building regulation and educational  approvals, the initial groundwork was completed in July 2013 and the contract to build was awarded in September 2013.


Brendan Law was appointed as the Founding Headmaster of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, a position he held until April 2018. Second Master, Matthew Ford, is currently Acting Headmaster with responsibility for day to day running of the school until new Headmaster, Mike Wilson, joins in July 2018. 

Mike Wilson is currently Headmaster of Cranleigh Prep School in the UK and knows the Abu Dhabi school extremely well having played a pivotal role in its foundation and development. His move to Cranleigh Abu Dhabi provides a strategic and strong succession plan. Mike wrote the school’s 3-18 curriculum plan, co-wrote its business plan and has been actively involved as a Board member since 2014. The current Senior Leadership Team all know and respect Mike and are looking forward to working with him.

Mike brings with him over 30 years of top class British educational experience. Runner up in the Tatler ‘Best Prep School Head Award’ in 2016, the majority of his career as an educator has been in the UK but his CV also tells a story of passion for international education. Apart from his significant involvement with Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, Mike has spent four years teaching in his native Kenya (where he also coached the national tennis team) and played a key role in the establishment of Dulwich International College in Phuket, Thailand when it opened in 1997. His career has taken him into every area of school life, as a practitioner, manager and, for the last 15 years, as a leader.

Mike has held a number of senior roles in leading UK schools, including Headmaster at Edge Grove School and Head of Sixth Form and careers at Bradfield College, but his deepest connection is with Cranleigh where he has worked for a total of 25 years. Mike’s first job was with Cranleigh UK as a Chemistry teacher in 1982 and since then, he returned twice – firstly in 1989 and again in 1998 – before accepting his current role as Headmaster of the Prep School in 2008.