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Kaplan International acquires European agency giant ESL

In major consolidation news for the study travel sector, Kaplan International English, the ELT education division of Kaplan, has acquired Europe’s largest student placement agency, ESL Education.

Kaplan has acquired ESLESL launched in 1996 and now places over 25,000 students overseas each year, with strong market presence in Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain.

"It was very important for us to see that the company we created and developed ourselves will continue to grow and thrive"

The just-announced deal will also see Kaplan move into French and German language training because ESL – a well known operator in the agency space – also has an education division, Alpadia, which operates 16 adult language schools and summer camps.

The deal between Heverald, parent company ESL Education and Alpadia, and Kaplan International English, was signed on July 11 in Geneva.

This partnership will now be expanded to include all of Kaplan’s 37 English language schools

David Fougere, COO at Kaplan International English, commented, “Joining forces with ESL Education and Alpadia will strengthen Kaplan’s position in the language travel sector.

“Kaplan will expand its relationship with the largest language agency in Europe allowing us to reach more students with our premium language courses.”

ESL places over 25,000 students each year on language courses, operating a network of 46 offices in Europe (and Panama), and is headquartered out of Switzerland.

The move takes Kaplan closer to one of the behemoths of the study travel sector, EF, which – unlike most of the rest of the industry – operates its own network of offices and is not as reliant on education agencies for its student pipeline.

ESL Education had offered a selection of Kaplan English schools as part of its portfolio for years, the company pointed out, and this partnership will now be expanded to include all of Kaplan’s 37 English language schools.

But ESL Education will maintain its independence and broad school portfolio as part of the deal, Kaplan commented.

Anke Menkhorst, ESL CEO, noted, “Kaplan understands the importance of maintaining our reputation for independent high-quality counselling services and for the breadth of our course offerings.”

“Kaplan understands the importance of our reputation for independent high-quality counselling”

And a spokesperson for Kaplan clarified that to date, ESL had not been a big supplier of students to Kaplan International. “ESL has included a small subset of Kaplan schools in its portfolio for many years. However, due to the small number of schools offered, the ESL volumes have been modest.”

Kaplan, which also directly recruits students for its own schools as well as working with study travel agencies around the globe, will now add the Alpadia network to its language school portfolio.

“By including Alpadia’s French and German language schools in our sales portfolio, we will expand our product offering to the worldwide market,” said Fougere.

Patrick Siegenthaler and Alain Vadi, co-owners of Heverald, will remain non-executive board members of the company for two years.

They commented: “We are delighted to see ESL Education and Alpadia become part of Kaplan. We have been impressed by how well our approach to what it takes to be successful in the language travel sector is aligned with Kaplan’s.

“It was very important for us to see that the company we created and developed ourselves will continue to grow and thrive.”

Kaplan has ventured into the area of acquiring an agency some years ago when it acquired Swiss company Pro Linguis in 2008 – before selling it on in 2016 to another Swiss operator. It also has an agency interest in Asia: BEO.

The company – part of Kaplan Inc. – operates 37 English language schools in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, teaching almost 40,000 students from over 150 countries.

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