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Europe’s new ‘queen’ school: Spotlight on UWC Atlantic College


With the news earlier this week that Princess Leonor, the elder daughter of King Felipe and Queen Letizia, will be attending UWC Atlantic College in Wales starting from this autumn, we thought this would be the perfect time to look closer at this unique, community-minded school to find out why it’s currently so popular with the European royals.

Princess Leonor, who will begin a two-year study period at the College in either late August or early September, follows Princess Elisabeth, the Duchess of Braban, in taking the International Baccalaureate programme here.

Founded in 1962, UWC Atlantic College provides students, according to its website, with “a lifelong commitment to service in the community, to collaborative work and social engagement and develops in young people a sense of personal initiative and leadership.”

Young people aged 16 to 19 have attended UWC Atlantic College since its inception, encompassing over 150 countries. The College is based at St. Donat’s Castle, a 12th century castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. Its campus sits on 122 acres of farm and woodland and also has access to its own valley and seafront.

UWC Atlantic is the original College, though a global initiative was launched in 1967 and now features in 18 schools around the world “dedicated to uniting cultures and countries” through education. Its other royal alumni include King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands and Princess Raiyah of Jordan.

The International Baccalaureate programme is an outdoor-based experiential educational course that lasts two years. It was first offered in 1968. The College’s vision is to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.”

Queen Noor of Jordan, one of UWC’s Presidents, is quoted as saying, “A UWC education is not an end in itself, but is designed to inspire and equip students with the skills they need to seek personal and communal fulfillment, to be mindful of the needs of others, and to become activists for a more peaceful and sustainable world.”

The Spanish Royal House notes in its announcement that UWC Atlantic College offers “a challenging and transformative educational experience to a deliberately diverse group of young people, to inspire them to become agents of positive change in accordance with UWC’s core values: international and intercultural understanding, respect and appreciation of diversity, personal responsibility and integrity, mutual respect, spirit of service, respect for the environment, sense of idealism, action, challenge and personal example.”

The Spanish Royal House announced that Princess Leonor’s studies will be compatible with her increasing royal duties—though those are limited to major ceremonial occasions and to the Princess of Asturias and Princess of Girona Awards held in her name.

About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.