Number of British schools in China to more than double

Report on 'second wave' of British-run campuses in China predicts total will have increased to 46 by the end of 2019

Caroline Henshaw

China maths teaching

British private schools are expanding rapidly in China as they seek to cash in on growing demand in the world’s second-largest economy, according to new research.

Consultancy Venture Education predicts there will be 46 British private school campuses in China by the end of the year, more than double the number two years before.

Last year, a record five schools opened their first international campus in China and nine more are expected to follow suit in 2019.

Venture Education said many were expanding beyond Beijing and Shanghai to cities like Guangzhou and Chongqing.

Chinese demand for British-run education has surged in the past few years as the pool of wealthy families continues to rise.

Many want their children to attend top-tier Western universities like Oxford or Harvard and see campuses of “brand-name” British schools like Harrow or Wellington as the best way in. 

The British run schools can also allow Chinese pupils to escape reliance on the country’s notoriously difficult, ultra-competitive, gaokao university entrance examinations

UK higher education statistics showed the number of Chinese students in UK universities more than doubled in the 10 years through 2016-17.

“There’s a huge desire amongst aspirational Chinese parents for their children to learn a British-style of education and be fluent in both Mandarin and English,” said Richard Gaskell, schools director at ISC Research.

“These schools provide a more Western style of education which offers greater access to the world’s best universities and, as a result, better job prospects.”

In response, more British private schools are opening campuses which cater for both Chinese and expat pupils. In 2018 they accounted for more than half of British schools in China for the first time.

Some operate a “hybrid” model blending the Chinese curriculum – which is mandatory for all Chinese students in Grades 1-9 – with English-language instruction and Western pedagogy.

After that, many favour the British curriculum. Among all 821 international schools in China, Venture Education said 40 per cent taught A-levels, compared to 15 per cent using the International Baccalaureate. 

For British schools, expanding overseas offers a new income stream at a time when schools are finding it harder to attract students at home.

ISC Research has said British schools opened more branches overseas last year than in any of the past 20 years.

Research by the Independent Schools Council found private school fees rose more than six-fold between 1992 and 2016, while wages only tripled.

“Creating new sources of income through overseas branches allows independent schools to grow without raising fees at home,” said Venture Education.

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