The acquisition is the group’s first venture into the Irish market and will sit alongside its Oxford House College English language operations in the UK, Canada, Australia and the US.
Stephen Nagle, group director, said the purchase of a school in Ireland is an “insurance policy against the future after Brexit”. The company has two schools in London, one in Oxford and a fourth in Stratford-upon-Avon.
“The Irish government is encouraging people to bring in international students as opposed to the UK”
“There’s a positive image of Ireland. It’s student friendly, it’s green, it’s peaceful – all the things Australians see as major marketing advantages in a country,” he told The PIE News. “And the government is encouraging people to bring in international students as opposed to the UK.”
Holmes bought ELA from former owners Therese Fagan and Mary Walsh who established the school in 2007.
“Originally this was a five-year project that extended to 10 because business was going so well,” Fagan told The PIE News. “We’re delighted a global organisation like OHC has taken over ELA and will continue our legacy of offering quality language courses in a friendly atmosphere.”
A new director will be hired and the school will be brought under OHC branding within the next six months, confirmed Nagle.
The school currently enrols 300 students from mostly Asia and Latin America but the group hopes to grow student numbers to balance stagnant UK enrolments.
“The UK industry has contracted,” Nagle said, noting that summer bookings are strong but winter business was down.
“Enrolments from Japan are terrible and Korea is down but Switzerland and Latin America continue to be good markets,” he said.
“English for Special Purposes bookings are strong and junior bookings are good because of the weaker pound,” he added.
The purchase brings OHC’s location total to 16. In 2015, the group bought International House Boston and International House New York. It has a third US school in Miami, five schools in Australia and three in Canada.
Nagle said the group is eager to “get a foothold in Ireland” before progressing further into the market.
In addition to its English language schools, the group also owns Australia’s largest private higher education provider, Holmes Institute, with five locations across Australia and one in Hong Kong.