Student enrolment grows 70% for international school groups

Published 22/04/2022

Student enrolment into international school groups has grown by 70% in the past five years, generating an income of US$22.3 billion in fees, according to ISC Research.

With an estimated 616 school groups currently teaching 2.18 million pupils, the number of international schools that are part of a wider brand continues to increase, a white paper released in April has found.

ISC research, which supplies data and intelligence on the international schools market, defines a school group or brand as “one which owns international schools that are part of the group or, has a financial interest in international schools by managing them or by providing key services to them without actually owning them”.

It identified the five leading school groups within the market as Maple Bear Global Schools Ltd, Beaconhouse Group, Grupo SEB, The City School, and Nord Anglia Education Ltd, which collectively own or manage 867 international schools.

GEMS Education was identified as the leading school group for the number of students enrolled, with 124,000 pupils spread across over 44 schools, mainly in the UAE and Qatar.

The income generated in annual fees by international school groups rose by 67% over the last five years, despite the global pandemic.

Speaking to The PIE News, Ashley Kirk, sales director at ISC research, attributed this growth in part to increased awareness of international schools among parents.

“​Many parents are attracted by the standard of learning and the global qualifications their child is promised from an international school, along with a more Western approach to learning that helps students to become creative and independent thinkers,” Kirk said.

Discussing why parents choose a school that is part of a group, rather than an non-brand affiliated international school, Kirk said that “brand recognition” and “confidence in educational standards” were important factors, as well as “the potential to move a child to a similar school with common teaching and learning, qualifications, and school ethos if the family needs to move between cities or countries”.

“Expansion by school groups is occurring through the acquisition of existing schools that struggled financially during the pandemic”

Although over half of the 377 new international schools either under construction or on track to be built are part of a group, Kirk said that “most expansion by school groups is occurring through the acquisition of existing schools that struggled financially during the pandemic”.

Of the 12,853 international schools within the market today, 4,861 are part of a school group, with 62% of the market remaining as individual.

International school groups “fly the flag for the whole sector” ISC said in its paper, which also noted that brands can “play an important advocacy role” with governments and universities, and benefit the entire international school sector through collaboration and sharing best practices.

ISC Research predicts that the international schools sector as a whole will continue to grow, stating that the market is “an attractive one for those looking for long-term investment”.

Although the pandemic – and now global inflation – has impacted incomes, Kirk says that international schools and groups have made themselves “more affordable” in response.

“Demand for international education will continue while standards remain and fees are accessible,” he said.

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