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Declan Millar, Managing Director of High Schools International (HSI)
Declan Millar

This week, we interview Declan Millar, Managing Director of High Schools International (HSI), about trends in the secondary school sector.

The following is an extended version of an interview with Declan Millar, Managing Director of High Schools International (HSI), which appears the cover story of the current (October 2017) issue of StudyTravel Magazine. HSI offers a range of short- and long-term high school options and placements in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA, as well as guardianships in the UK and Ireland.



Have you opened any new destinations or programmes recently?


In 2015, we started offering short-term Individual and Group Integration Programmes in the UK and Group Integration in Ireland; in 2016, we started offering guardianship as a stand-alone in the UK and in a limited fashion in Ireland; and also last year, we added Northern Ireland to our portfolio of schools, managed through HSI Ireland.


What are the benefits to agents of a large portfolio of high school programmes?


Partners come in all shapes and sizes, from large (who work directly with some schools/school districts) to small and medium companies who may specialise in one or two school types in one or two destinations. 


Markets have changed over the past five-to-six years particularly and will continue to change.  Parents are now very well informed about the choices available. However the basic requirement remains the same - security and professionalism from both the sending partner and the receiving organisation.  Parents tend to interview agencies for these qualities and agents in turn need to feel 100 per cent secure with the receiving organisation. Accreditation, communication, services, staff expertise, relationships with schools and screening of host families are critical elements.


Agents who work with one destination via HSI feel very comfortable expanding to some of our other destinations based on experience with the first destination. We offer choice, flexibility, multi-destination programmes, but mainly the same set of values and principles in each destination, and direct access to our local destination companies - not via a central head office. This is one of the main attractions of HSI for agents - we are a group of local, individual receiving organisations. 


Have you seen any demand for split-location delivery?


There is potential for this and it happens occasionally. However, most students and parents looking for long-term education (rather than a high school experience/exchange programme) have already decided what education system and university outcomes they want and would not consider changing.


In terms of international enrolment, have you noticed any trends emerging in the last one-to-two years?


Until very recently we were mainly selling package programmes (school + accommodation + guardianship). We have now diversified to offering guardianship and the option of school placement.


In 2016 we noticed an increase to Ireland and Canada and a drop in the US and UK. There has been some pick up in both the US/UK this year but not enough to make up any shortfall.  Particularly for long-term students - there is uncertainty about what will happen when Brexit kicks in and what changes may occur in the US visa system under the Trump administration. 


The Far East - Japan, China and Taiwan in particular - has grown quite a bit. Brazil dropped significantly in 2015/16 but has started to rebound. The traditional markets in Europe (mainly Spain and Germany) have grown back to pre-recession numbers and Italy has grown from a very low base to be significant.



Declan Millar is the Managing Director of High Schools International


This interview is an unabridged version of an interview for the cover story of the October 2017 issue of StuyTravel Magazine. It appears within a section entitled 'High School Partnerships' within a larger article on High School Chains.