High School Chains
Special Report
Offering multiple locations, and in some cases study levels, high school chains and placement providers offer a number of benefits for agents, as Matthew Knott discovers.

With private international education companies offering a portfolio of high school locations, sometimes in different countries, multi-sector providers straddling educational levels, and organisations acting as a facilitator to large numbers of school choices, agents have access to partnerships that can provide numerous options in the secondary sphere. Here we profile some of the recent developments, benefits, models and agent opinions.


Chain providers and developments

Nord Anglia Education www.nordangliaeducation.com is one provider with numerous locations, many of which welcome international students. Kim Eklund, Vice President of Global Sales, explains that three US schools offer boarding (North Broward Preparatory, Windermere Preparatory and the Village School), as well as three campuses in Switzerland and one in Thailand. Boarding is available from Grades 6 to 12, with the IB Diploma, Advanced Placement (AP) and honours offered.


"In the USA, we are currently building brand new boarding facilities at all three schools and they will be completed over the next 12 months," Kim says, adding that Nord Anglia has been busy acquiring day schools across Europe and Asia recently.


The Colegios Laude Group in Spain was acquired by the International Schools Partnership (ISP) www.internationalschoolspartnership.com in 2015 says Angela Dudley-Warde, Group Head of Admissions & Marketing, ISP Europe. Many of the schools offer a British curriculum of GCSEs and A-levels. "Boarding has been introduced for the first time at one of the British international schools and since opening in September 2016, demand and interest has been growing rapidly," she says, adding that a new development is underway on the Costa Blanca.


Bellerbys College www.bellerbys.com in the UK, owned by Study Group, offers GCSEs, A-levels and foundation courses at three locations (Brighton, Cambridge and London), says Alex Marston, Global Recruitment Director. Recent developments include the launch of an Elite Medics course for international students in partnership with the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and a new pathway partnership with Aston University. Kings Colleges www.kingseducation.com has also established a presence in Brighton in the last year, adding to colleges in Bournemouth, London and Oxford offering traditional GCSEs and A-levels, says Andrew Green, Director. Another development has been a partnership with Downside School to offer a high school preparation course.



First established in 1931, DLD College London is the oldest school in the Abbey DLD www.abbeycolleges.co.uk label. "It moved to a state-of-the-art campus near Westminster Bridge in 2016 and now boasts 119 on-campus bedrooms and a further 200+ rooms within a five-minute walk," says Rossella Proscia, adding that the Cambridge school also moved premises in the same year. The group (with another school in Manchester) offers a portfolio of A-level, GCSE, foundation and BTEC vocational courses.


ACS International Schools www.acs-schools.com comprises three UK campuses and one in Qatar, with curricula including the IB diploma, AP and the American High School Diploma, says Mark London, Head of Marketing. "This year, we have opened a new UK£10 million (US$13 million) science centre at our Hillingdon campus and a new boarding house at ACS Cobham," he says, while there are plans for a new campus in Qatar to open in 2019/20.


Benefits to agents

"One of the benefits of being part of a group of schools is that we can offer greater choice," explains Mark. "When marketing to agents, our primary focus is on ACS Cobham (our boarding campus), but we have also found that many agents are interested in day schools."
Chains can also offer different academic slants, argues Alex. "Each of the three Bellerbys' locations has a specialism: Cambridge for STEM, London for business and Brighton as our large generalist international college. This model also offers a choice of three locations in cities that are well known for their student opportunities."


Kim at Nord Anglia relates, "Our benefit to the agents is primarily that we can offer a 'one-stop-shop' solution, through multiple locations and USPs that appeal to a majority of students. We also operate a consolidated admissions process, allowing agents to deal with only one admissions team for multiple schools and using only one set of forms." Additionally, agent performance targets can be spread across the group's schools.


"We are able to present a consistent message of quality and academic rigour within the context of a broad range of location types," says Andrew. "Equally, our breadth of colleges allows local college management to dovetail with a senior management team at group level. This allows us to simultaneously maintain the individual feel of each college while at the same time benefitting from the cross pollination of ideas and best practice across the group as a whole."


There are also benefits for international students in terms of cross-school activity and the financial security of the group, says Kim, while Angela also mentions intra-group events and activities "to enhance the educational programme". 


Another advantage of providers with multiple locations is split-campus delivery. "There are opportunities to split courses between schools with the group who are offering the same external examinations," says Angela. "Students may wish to experience living and studying in more than one location and a transfer to another school within the same educational group could be very attractive." Kim adds that there is an element of this, with students sometimes splitting between countries.


With providers operating in different sectors, there is the potential for transition through levels. Andrew remarks, "One of the major benefits of being an organisation which delivers language training as well as academic programmes is the potential for cross-over from one type of student to another." He adds that short-term taster courses have led to several full-time enrolments. Alex also notes an increasing trend towards 'try-before-you-buy' taster courses. He adds that Bellerbys works closely with sister language provider Embassy English, as well as the Study Group network of university partners. "Having both English language and academic students together in the same college environment makes for a richer, more diverse student cohort," Andrew comments.


Dukes Education Group www.dukeseducation.com in the UK comprises three main strands, explains Olive Spyth, Marketing Executive: GCSE & A-level colleges; English language summer schools and education consultancy.


"Our international student population finds great benefit in joining colleges and summer schools that are part of a larger education group," says Olive. "The key advantage to this arrangement is our ability to cross-fertilise each educational offering with specialised, often niche expertise. For example, the Dukes Consultancy arm is home to the largest and longest-serving admissions consultancy for Oxford and Cambridge in the world, Oxbridge Applications. As a result, able students in our sixth forms receive highly specialised application preparation services, matching admissions expertise with personal knowledge of each student."


Latest trends

"Students are becoming younger and younger," says Kim at Nord Anglia. "Over the past four years, we have seen the majority demand go from G11 to G10 and the bulk of it being for G9." In terms of international student enrolment, Kim observes that Vietnam is on the up, while Latin American students are beginning to stay longer than the traditional semester/academic year.


The Eastern European markets - particularly Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia - are providing more enquiries for the Colegios Laude Group, says Angela. Mark at ACS also notes renewed vigour in the Russian market, and adds that increasing numbers of boarders are coming from Italy, Spain and Turkey.


"Asian students traditionally favour business subjects, however there has also been an increase in interest in arts-related subjects and careers such as architecture," says Alex at Bellerbys. He also observes the increasing competitiveness of Australia as a secondary destination, particularly in the buoyant South East Asian markets. "We see this competition as an ongoing challenge in the years to come."


At Kings, Andrew notes growth in students focused on university progression, and a rise in African - particularly Angolan and Nigerian - students, as well as South East Asian markets. He adds that subject-specific pathways are increasing in popularity over generic pathway courses, while the traditional A-level is experiencing rising demand.


However, several contributors advise that the IB programme is becoming increasingly popular. Demand is growing across all sources, relates Kim. The choice of IB in Spanish or English is an attraction, says Angela. "Over the long term, we have found that the IB Diploma is becoming increasingly popular as universities rate the qualities that it develops in students, such as independent thinking, organisational skills and creativity," adds Mark. matthew@studytravel.network



Agents on high school groups

For this article, StudyTravel Magazine contacted a selection of agents that have attended ST Alphe Secondary Focus - a conference for secondary providers and agents - in the last three years.


Of these, more than half (61.5 per cent) reported that they were working with high school chains/groups. "The main benefits we see are the guaranteed standards of education level, accommodation and everything connected with the school's brand," said Monika Lis at Project Travel www.project-travel.pl, Poland. For Djordje B. Kostic at Egida International www.egida.rs, Serbia, the potential to switch campus is an attraction.


At IEC Abroad www.iecabroad.com, UK, Matheen Saleek praised quick responses, leniency with borderline cases, quicker turnaround and easier application processes. Roberta Miglio at Sunflower Exchange www.sunflower-exchange.it, Itlay, commented, "The most important benefit is that you have one person in charge of everything so that information can be given very quickly."


Not all respondents were as positive about administrative procedures, with Joaquin Saez Viana at Learning Out www.learning-out.com, Spain, commenting that it can be hard to have a fast answer. At KUB Travel Enterprises www.kub.rs in Serbia, Vaska Djevic laments the administration of larger chains and turnover of staff, points echoed by Larysa Neklyudova at Aspect www.aspect.ua, Ukraine, although she adds that marketing is more active in chains and it is easier for agents to sell due to brand recognition.


More generally, 75 per cent stated that demand for secondary programmes had increased in the last twelve months. Caterina Calci at I Viaggi del Toghiro www.toghiro.com in Italy said growth was up year on year, while Matheen commented that enrolments doubled last year.


High school partnerships

While not necessarily owning and operating multiple schools, a number of organisations are partnering with schools through different models to offer substantial portfolios to agents. Student Management Group (SMG) www.student-management.com offers four F-1 US high school programmes, an online school, and courses in Canada and the UK, explains Sasha Brukhnov. New developments include a UK Experience programme and forthcoming university-level pathway offering in Canada, he says, adding that SMG offers a universal booking form and agencies will have the same contact person. "SMG works only with agents; we do not accept applications directly from students since high school programmes require comprehensive trainings and preparations."


Also in the USA, UTP High Schools www.utphighschools.com "offers fully supported, rigorous academic programmes for international students at select high schools", asserts Kelly Casey, with exchange or full high school diploma programmes offered. Three new partnerships in Florida and Arizona will shortly be announced, Kelly adds, "expanding geographical offerings while opening new opportunities for students interested in aviation, biology and engineering".


High Schools International www.hsinet.org offers four destinations - the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA - with a mixture of portfolios in terms of school profile, programmes offered, accommodation type, and public and private sectors, explains Declan Millar. Developments in the last couple of years include short-term individual and group international programmes in the UK and group integration in Ireland; guardianships as a stand-alone offer; and the addition of Northern Ireland schools.


Contact the advertisers in this issue