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.


Headmaster Michael Wilson joined Cranleigh Abu Dhabi from Cranleigh Prep School in the UK where he was Headmaster for ten years. Michael is no stranger to the Abu Dhabi school, having played a pivotal role in its foundation and development since its inception in 2011. Michael wrote the school’s 3-18 curriculum plan, co-wrote its business plan and has been actively involved as a Board member since 2014. 

Michael has 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, Michael 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 16 years, as a leader.

Michael 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. Michael’s first job was with Cranleigh UK as a Chemistry teacher in 1982 and since then, he returned three time – firstly in 1989, again in 1998 and then in 2008 when he became Headmaster of the Prep School.

Brendan Law was the Founding Headmaster of Cranleigh Abu Dhabi from 2014 until April 2018. Second Master, Matthew Ford, was Acting Headmaster for the summer term of 2018.