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How is the on-campus pathways market evolving?

With numerous obstacles facing the academic pathways sector in recent years, such as government curbs on student immigration and the need for pathway colleges to readjust to “Highly Trusted Sponsor” status in the UK, observers might have considered that private operations working in tandem with HE had had their fill of government restrictions.

A modern approach to a historic tradition – University of Liverpool is one partnership player, working with Kaplan

CEG pointed to its placing as 23rd of the top 100 of private equity backed firms with the fastest growing profits

On the contrary, academic pathways are flourishing; true to their literal meaning, pathways have found a way through these obstacles and the story is generally one of growth and expanding opportunity.

On-campus provision of pathway programmes – enabling international students to get to know a campus while honing their language and study skills prior to a degree course – is one of the fast-developing areas of the wider international education sector. Underlying consolidation and expansion, of course, is the fact that the number of students wishing to study abroad is set to continue rising through the next decade and beyond.

“There are 157.5 million students in tertiary education today, that’s larger than the entire population of Nigeria or Russia; in 1970 there were just 28 million,” says Tim O’Brien, director of INTO Knowledge at INTO University Partnerships. The company provides pathways, English language and higher education programmes in partnership with universities in the UK, US and China under a joint venture model.

“In the last decade alone,” adds O’Brien, “the number of students studying outside their home country has gone from 2.5 million to 3.7 million and by 2025, it is projected to reach 8 million. The global demand for higher education only seems to be going one way.”

“The global demand for higher education only seems to be going one way”

In the last seven years, in line with factors including the growth of household income in some Asian countries and capacity issues regarding tertiary education in countries such as India and China, all the major pathway players have reported growth, albeit with some wobbles.

Curtin Sydney College - a Navitas-owned centre

Long-term provider Navitas has opened 10 new colleges in the last two years and now has 30 university pathways colleges in seven countries (including Canada, Singapore, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Indonesia), with a total of 15,000 students enrolling in 2011.

However, recent changes to student visa policy in Australia and the UK caused enrolment dips of 14.5% and 10% respectively in 2011 (although their North American and Asian colleges offset this, making the overall decline just 1.5%).

Kaplan meanwhile has seen its university partnerships extend from one college to 13 since 2005, including one in UAE that opened in September 2010 with the sole aim of preparing Emirati students for higher education within their own country. New UK colleges are planned for this year and the company’s total number of students has grown from 100 to 6,000.

Study Group claims 20 to 30 per cent enrolment growth year-on-year

Another key player, Study Group, has grown to 14 colleges since inception in 2006 and also wants to open more on-campus centres this year. One of their most recent was at University College Dublin where, as Paul Lovegrove, principal of Study Group’s International Study Centres admits, “visa requirements are considerably more within our control.”

The group – which leases premises from university partners and operates independently on-campus, unlike INTO’s joint venture arrangement – announced bilateral International Study Programmes with three Chinese universities last year, and claims 20 to 30% enrolment growth year-on-year (though they don’t publish student numbers).

Similarly, Cambridge Education Group (CEG) did not wish to discuss specific enrolment figures, but instead pointed to its placing 23rd in a list of the top 100 private equity-backed firms with the fastest growing profits, as sourced by Deloitte. They also point to a steady proliferation of partnerships such as their London Foundation Campus serving three new partners last year, one of which was Royal Holloway. [more>>]

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