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Ultra-wealthy drawn to UK schools

The number of ultra-high net worth individuals worldwide has jumped by 42% in the last decade to 193,000, and these super-rich are looking overseas to educate their children, according to Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report.

Knight Frank 2017 Wealth Report“It’s not just about the teaching, it’s about quality of life and the extent of extra-curricular activities available,” one survey respondent said. Photo: Knight Frank Wealth Report.

“Ambitious families in Singapore are telling me that the fall in the value of the pound is making the UK look much better value"

In a survey of nearly 900 private bankers and wealth advisers, almost half with clients in Africa said the super-rich individuals they work with – earning $30m or over – are more likely to look overseas for a good school for their children than to educate them in their own country.

For those with clients in Latin America, the figure was 45%; the Middle East, 40%; and Asia, 38%.

“Having your children make friends with people from lots of different nationalities is considered very attractive”

And the survey revealed that the UK is becoming especially attractive to the ultra-wealthy, now that the fallen value of the pound has made it cheaper to send their children to UK private schools.

Currency, quality of life and access to the best universities are the key trends boosting demand for a British education, according to Ed Richardson, director of education at Keystone Tutors.

“Ambitious families in Singapore have traditionally sent their children to schools in the US, not necessarily because they think they are better, but because of the cost. Now, they are telling me that the fall in the value of the pound is making the UK look much better value.

“That sentiment will be echoed in many other places,” he added.

Independent Schools Council data shows that international demand for UK independent schools has risen significantly over the last ten years. This phenomenon is especially notable among students from China, Russia, Africa and the Middle East.

“While growth in the Russian market has slowed right down over the past few years, I am seeing a sharp rise in the urgency of enquiries from Turkish families,” observed Petty.

“In September last year people were expressing interest, but by December it was: ‘Can we come right now?’ Some people are looking for boarding schools, but others are looking at London day schools with the whole family coming over.”

Private boarding schools in the UK are still seen as the “gold standard” internationally, according to the report.

And although a number of schools have opened franchises overseas, especially in Asia and the Middle East, “the genuine article [in the UK] is still the preferred choice for those who can afford it”, it adds.

“It’s not just about the teaching, it’s about quality of life and the extent of extra-curricular activities available,” commented Richardson.

“Certainly in China there is a feeling that if you’re going to spend money on Western luxuries it is better to buy them in the West,” he said. “More credit will be given to Harrow itself than Harrow Beijing.”

Forging international friendships is another perk ultra-high net worth individuals value about sending their children for overseas study. “In a world where business is becoming increasingly global, having your children make friends with people from lots of different nationalities is considered very attractive,” commented William Petty, of advisor Bonas MacFarlane.

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