International Education

Ruth Bailey
A growing middle class has significantly increased the demand for private/independent education in Southeast Asia, and international brands are taking up the challenge.

The most innovative institutions got ahead of the trend as long ago as 2004, when the University of Nottingham became the first overseas university to establish an independent campus, in Ningbo, near Shanghai. The university now also has a campus in Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the UK's best-known private schools and universities have been setting up campuses across Asia through joint ventures, franchise agreements or direct investments. London's Dulwich College opened a school in 2007, in Suzhou, near Shanghai. Harrow International School was the first international boarding school to receive land under Hong Kong's Land Grant Scheme. The scheme grants land or vacant government premises at a nominal premium or leases them at a nominal rent to non-profit making institutions. Hong Kong has other incentive schemes for self-financing institutions, including a start-up loan scheme and a quality enhancement grant scheme.

Some of the UK's best-known private schools and universities have been setting up campuses across Asia through joint ventures, franchise agreements or direct investments.

Large-scale, global education providers also have expansion plans in the region. Nord-Anglia now has 12 schools in Asia; Cognita has eight and Global Education Management Systems (GEMs) also has eight, six of which are in India.

There are specific challenges associated with developing private education facilities in Asia, including: 

  • Limited land lease and land zoning issues. 
  • Designing schools and teaching programmes to suit Asia’s different learning styles. 
  • Immigration policies often lag behind a country’s drive to become a global education hub, creating problems for both staff and international students.
  • The high cost of living for international students, combined with a lack of boarding facilities – Hong Kong estimates that it needs over 11,000 hostel places. 

However, there are opportunities for investment. In Singapore, for example, there are multiple joint venture schemes between local institutions and international education providers. In Hong Kong, the government regularly releases plots of land for education purposes, from green-field sites to disused schools. In Malaysia, there are entire education zones already in place including Iskandar, where Marlborough College was one of the first to open in 2012. Both Singapore and Hong Kong have the added bonus of teaching students in English, which diminishes communication barriers and attracts a wider audience.

In education, the provider's reputation is vitally important. Global ratings such as Times Higher Education's first World Reputation Rankings are hugely influential in helping to attract students, staff and funding. Providers, therefore, need reliable development partners who can deliver quality facilities within the allocated time and cost requirements. The powerful voice of the student body, amplified by the rise of social media, means that capital projects must be carefully planned around the academic calendar.

Faithful+Gould is experienced in delivering education facilities in the region; advising and supporting education providers entering or expanding in the Asian market. Our capabilities and skills help our clients to safeguard the financial viability of their initial capital investment, through to optimising ongoing operational costs. Our experience includes projects that bring together different traditions of higher education. One example is Duke Kunshan University, a collaboration between Duke University and Wuhan University in Kunshan, China.

The powerful voice of the student body, amplified by the rise of social media, means that capital projects must be carefully planned around the academic calendar.

To reflect the approach taken by many of the world’s top education providers, we are working to bring intelligence and rigor to their global development strategies in the education sector. We are currently capturing and analysing data that will provide valuable information for clients looking for opportunities in Asia.

Through our integrated project and program management approach, we provide development advisory, program and project management, cost and commercial management, construction management and asset management. In collaboration with our parent company Atkins, we bring an excellent understanding of business case planning, design and engineering to our clients’ projects.

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