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Yangtze dollar set to oust US

The Chinese dollar could oust the American version as far as independent schools in Scotland are concerned, as the country's booming economy produces more high-earners who can afford the fees.

Glenalmond College is the latest to embark on a drive to recruit mainland Chinese students. Ian Templeton, the warden, visited Shanghai in October to explore the market. This included talks with the head of an international primary school about the possibility of it acting as a "feeder" for the 400-pupil Perthshire school, which has annual fees of pound;18,000 .

The number of mainland Chinese students - as opposed to those from Hong Kong or Taiwan - in the Scottish independent sector is very small, but growing.

According to the Scottish Council of Independent Schools, there were 28 pupils in 2001-02, up from 23 the previous session, just nine in 1999-2000 and seven in 1998-99. Lomond, Merchiston, Morrison's and Fettes already have small numbers of Chinese students.

Numbers are expected to rise, SCIS believes. The UK Education and Advisory Service, a Shanghai-based agency that assists Chinese students to apply for British education, confirms the trend.

It says it has detected an increase in demand, not least because of the tightening of US visa restrictions following September 11.

Independent schools report that their experience with Chinese students has been generally positive. Angus MacDonald, headmaster of Lomond in Helensburgh, with three to four students a year, says "they have been a great success, integrating well and working hard". Subjects requiring less English, such as maths, science and art, work well with the help of a teacher in English as a second language. Their first student, who came in 1995, is now in his final year of natural sciences at Cambridge, and all the Lomond pupils have gone to UK universities. Fergus West, deputy head at Merchiston Castle in Edinburgh, reports similar accomplishments. Since 1986, they have had around 30 students from mainland China, and their academic quality has been "good or very good". They have integrated well, although some are "understandably" homesick initially, he says.

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