“We continue to trade well in the HE business, despite the ebbs and flows of the economies from which we source students”
Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 34% to £38.7m, the company has announced in year-end trading results, despite one-off costs having dented Q3 figures.
“2013 was a key year in Study Group’s growth and development,” said CEO David Leigh.
“We completed a successful refinancing of the business through a £205m bond issue, relocated our Head Office from Sydney to London and re-focused a number of divisions following the appointment of a new senior management team.”
Leigh said that the figures contained no major surprises, but that the team was pleased to see that “we continue to trade well in the higher education business, despite the ebbs and flows of the economies from which we source students.”
This growth in higher education business, particularly in the UK, drove adjusted revenue growth of 7%, reflecting increases in price and student volumes across many programmes.
Study Group’s takeover of the Sheffield International College pathway programme, one of the largest in Europe, will make it the first example of a university pathway programme being taken over by another provider.
“We’re very, very proud to be the first beneficiary of a change in pathway provider… we’re very excited to be taking it on,” said Leigh.
Study Group will welcome its first Sheffield intake in September 2015.
Study Group also opened partnerships with the University of Strathclyde in the UK and the University of Maine and the University of Vermont in the US, as well as taking on operations at ANU College, the ISC at Australia National University.
Year-round business in the Embassy English division showed the weakest performance, despite growth on the summer schools side, prompting a marketing push with several new hires, including former CEO of STB Santuza Bicalho to lead global sales.
This year the ELT provider will hone in on business-oriented training, Leigh told The PIE News.
He said that Embassy English will offer a set of targeted electives for students building language proficiency for use in a business context. The company will also offer more opportunities for internships to practise English language skills in context.
“There are no countries today which we don’t currently target which we think would be a source of a material number of students in the future”
One such module, for example, is focused on family-owned businesses.
“We’re going to put an elective together specifically for that because we know that there are a number of cultures and countries from which we saw students where family-owned business played quite a big part in the students’ lives and future careers,” said Leigh.
As it continues its worldwide expansion, Study Group’s CEO predicted that major source markets will be where the company already has a presence – including China, parts of the Middle East and Korea.
“There are no countries today which we don’t currently target which we think would be a source of a material number of students at some point in the future,” Leigh told The PIE News.
“Having said that, there are definitely some countries where we see more opportunity than perhaps has been the case in the past,” he continued, citing Myanmar as an example.
Myanmar’s education system “could absolutely be supported by more study abroad opportunities,” he said.