Growing number of independent schools opening overseas

Recent figures from ISC Research show that the number of independent schools opening up overseas is on the rise.

As the Telegraph details, there are currently 57 campuses of British schools located abroad, with 15 more expected to open in September. This means that the number of so-called overseas ‘franchises’ will increase by more than one quarter this year alone.

A total 19 campuses have opened their doors in the last two years, signifying a sharp rise in the last three years.

Schools director at ISC Research, Richard Gaskell, commented: “There hasn’t been much growth in the UK market for a lot of the independent schools and they are looking for a non-fee based income.

“They want to offer more bursaries, that is definitely a driving principal for many of the top schools. Opening a campus overseas is another major revenue stream. They also want to keep fees down, so this takes the pressure off.”

Gaskell pointed out that the majority of private schools adopt a ‘franchise’ model, where an investor or management firm pays the school a fixed sum of money every year so they can use their name, brand or expertise. The British ‘mothership’ school is typically paid a percentage from fees, in addition to the franchise fee.

The news comes in the wake of mounting pressure on Britain’s most prestigious private schools to do more to help pupils who are less well-off.

Three quarters of England’s independent schools are registered as charities, granting them access to favourable business rates as well as VAT exemptions on fees. In order to qualify, they have to show that they offer “public benefit” to a reasonably large portion of the public, as opposed to a narrow group of wealthy individuals.

This year, Wellington College – which charges annual fees of £38,000 – will open three schools in China and one in Thailand. The £21,000-a-year King’s College School Wimbledon will also open two in China, and Christ College Brecon will open a school in Malaysia.

Chairman of the Independent Schools Council, Barnaby Lenon, acknowledged that the schools want to be able to offer more bursaries, but cannot afford to do that while raising fees.

He said that opening schools overseas provides a “very good source of income” for institutions that wish to raise more money to offer places to pupils who are less well-off.

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