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British education enters boom period in China

By Angus McNeice in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-01-24 17:45
A Georgian-style campus located in the heart of academic London, Britain. [Photo/catseducation.com]

British education in China is set to go through a boom period this year, with 16 new campuses linked with leading independent schools due to open in the Chinese mainland in 2020, compared to four in 2019, according to a recent report.

Currently 17 British schools operate 36 campuses in China, according to Beijing-based consultancy Venture Education. Several will add more campuses this year, and over the next two years an additional 15 independent schools from the United Kingdom will establish their first branches in China.

Venture Education says this significant increase in numbers is partly down to a delay in scheduled openings last year, when just four out of 14 planned campuses materialized.

"Many of the schools have simply delayed opening to 2020 or 2021," the report states. "One major cause of the delay is China's recent tranche of guidelines to improve and reform compulsory education and regulate private education."

Venture Education said that while tighter regulation and economic uncertainty led to a temporary slowdown in 2019, in the longer term British independent schools may experience significant benefits from "a more compliant Chinese market that regulates unfair competition"。

Julian Fisher, co-founder of Venture Education, says that while in the past schools targeted the children of expats, increasingly new campuses are catering for Chinese students.

"The amount of expats and foreigners in China is falling and companies are hiring locally so there's just not the demand anymore," Fisher told trade publication Professionals in International Education.

The rapid expansion of British independent schools in the Chinese mainland will lead to increasingly high levels of competition between players, according to Venture Education. The consultancy says that the schools best placed to survive will be those that successfully integrate local and British education, and localize sustainable management models.

Currently, Dulwich College in South London, whose former pupils include polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and best-selling comic novelist PG Wodehouse, has eight sister schools in China, the most of any UK independent school.

This is set to change, however, as Harrow School, where Winston Churchill and poet Lord Byron studied, plans to add eight new Chinese campuses to its existing two branches by 2022.

With Beijing and Shanghai already well populated with British schools, the majority of new campuses will be established in other major Chinese cities including Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Chengdu.

Renowned London-based institution Westminster School, the former school of musical composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and architect Christopher Wren, plans to open its first international campus in Chengdu this year, along with Chinese partner Hong Kong Melodious Education Technology Group.

"The Westminster ethos will be central to life at the school," said Chengdu Westminster School Head Master Rodney Harris. "Our pastoral provision and well-being programs will underpin the lives of all our pupils so they can thrive in a safe, supportive and nurturing environment, positioning them to embrace the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead."

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