Factors behind bold strategy of branded schools examined in new British Council research
Some of the best-known British boarding schools are establishing branches overseas, as part of a high-profile internationalisation strategy to tap new pools of middle-class families seeking a quality education, according to new British Council research Global expansion of UK boarding schools: a study of branch campuses.
The perceived rigour of a UK-style education, as well as the international recognition of the qualifications, is fuelling demand around the world, with a reported 40 per cent of international schools using a UK-based curriculum. The last year has seen expansion of UK boarding school branch campuses across the world, with growth centred on East Asia and the Middle East.
Five new branch campuses of UK boarding schools have opened in the last year, bringing the total to 44 overseas outposts that collectively educate 24,710 students, a number fast catching up with the 27,211 international pupils currently being educated in the UK according to the latest census from the Independent Schools Council (ISC).
As name recognition is key in attracting students overseas, well-branded schools are at forefront - Dulwich College has outposts in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Seoul and Singapore, while Harrow has schools in Hong Kong, Beijing and Bangkok, with plans to open one in Shanghai in 2016. In addition, some schools are targeting British expatriates who want their children to be educated in the UK system. The ISC noted a record high number of students in the UK receiving financial help with their fees, and some believe revenue generated by branch campuses is helping support those efforts.
The report examines the drivers – both in the UK and internationally -- behind the proliferation of UK boarding school global branch campuses. Among the drivers are:
•Rising middle class, particularly in Asia
•Appeal of UK-style education overseas
•Buoyant mobility of UK expatriates
•Demise of UK ‘assisted places scheme’ meaning schools needed to fund their own bursaries
•Decreased affordability of UK boarding schools to British parents
•Increased UK government scrutiny of international student numbers
Mark Herbert, Head of Schools Programmes at the British Council, said, “The UK has long held a reputation for world-class education and this emerging opportunity for growth overseas is exciting. It is too soon to tell the long-term impact of how the cultures of some of the UK’s oldest boarding schools will combine with communities thousands of miles away, but with the current approach, there is potential win-win for both sides”.
Harrow School opened one of the first boarding school branch campuses overseas when it established an outpost in Bangkok in 1998. The trend is expected to continue as strong economic growth in regions such as Asia creates new markets of middle class families eager to provide their children with a quality education. The belief, too, that attending a UK boarding school could potentially support an application to a UK university was also a key motivation for parents surveyed by the British Council during a recent UK schools and colleges exhibition in Hong Kong.
“The priority given to education rises alongside the growth of the global middle class,” said Anna Esaki-Smith, the author of the report. “Thus, the expansion of UK boarding schools overseas is a reflection of not only that correlation, but the belief that a UK-style education provides a quality academic experience.”
One in five students enrolled at UK boarding schools in the UK are now from overseas, and of the non-British pupils with parents living overseas, students from mainland China exceeded those from Hong Kong for the first time. The top source countries are mainland China, with 5,683 students, Hong Kong, 4,785, Russia, 2,795, Germany, 1,930 and Spain, 1,267. Thailand has shown notable growth, with a 16.7 per cent increase in the number of Thai students from a year earlier.