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Hotcourses on the market, but jury’s out on buyer

Hotcourses – the UK-based online publisher of global and national education opportunities – could be sold to a digital specialist investment buyer in a deal that will aim to double Hotcourses’ business over the next five years, co-founder and CEO Mike Elms has revealed to The PIE News. Any investment will fuel further expansion plans, with China a strategic focus.

"We will only partner with an organisation that we believe can add significant value to our commitment to be the leading digital information business in the education sector"

Media reports in the UK have suggested that a deal with Inflexion Private Equity is likely, all focusing on the fact that an MP is a shareholder in the firm.

Although an agreement has not been reached, if Inflexion is the right partner, the sale  – reportedly worth UK£35 million – could be made as soon as 1 December.

“The jury is still out [on Inflexion], it’s not definite, we were approached by a lot of people and they had the best expertise in terms of digital marketing,” Mike Elms, co-founder of Hotcourses told The PIE News.

“I should stress this is only an option, and we will only partner with an organisation that we believe can add significant value to our commitment to be the leading digital information business in the education sector, and I have not made a final decision on this yet,” he explained.

i-Apply has already attracted over 6,000 applications

Hotcourses has two brand-name sites, Hotcourses focusing on the UK domestic market and HotcoursesAbroad, the latter of which focuses on the international student market. It also runs complementary sites such as Uniguru and comparison site, Whatuni, and launched a direct global application service for selected universities last year, i-Apply, which has already attracted over 6,000 applications.

The new China-based website is part of Hotcourses' suite of websites helping enable choice about education opportunities

The new China-based website is part of Hotcourses’ suite of websites helping enable choice about education opportunities

Elms’ expansion plans include opening a fifth global office in China with a digital marketing team and online counsellors to help Chinese students apply to universities overseas via a new website, www.6student.cn, as well as extending i-Apply to Arabic speakers in the Middle East.

Speaking of the company’s concerted digital efforts, Elms added that the company has also “launched a global seminar programme to help universities adopt the latest technology in order analyse their web traffic more effectively.”

“All of this, coupled with our growth in the US and Australasia, takes significant investment which we are pleased to make because we are committed to continue our mission of providing the best information and guidance for students looking to further their education,” he said.

Hotcourses first started offering international students educational study guides in 1996, inspired by the study abroad experiences of founders Mike Elms and Jeremy Hunt – currently Britain’s health secretary.

More about the origins of the company, which has offices in London, Sydney, Boston and Chennai and helps 1,000 universities and colleges recruit students, can be read in the latest edition of The PIE Review.

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