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How will independent schools re-emerge post Covid apocalypse?

Here’s a thought for you, of all the changes and adaptations that you’ve had to make in your life, personal and work related, which of them are for the better? Which are here to stay and make your life or business better? And which can you not wait to rid and go back to ‘the old way’?

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"The global opportunities for independent schools are vast, but usually reserved only for those with the deepest pockets"

I’m absolutely fascinated by what the future holds in a post-Covid world. Adaptations have been vast and in place for a prolonged period. It hasn’t been ‘a few months’ of change as some optimistically believed at the beginning, but instead a sustained period of constant adaptation that will undoubtedly change what and how we go about our business for good.

“Forced campus closures has meant zero boarding revenue”

With regard to international education and recruitment I’ve heard some pretty bold claims recently, “no one will attend face to face fairs anymore”, “institutions will no longer have large international offices and will outsource recruitment to the emerging online recruitment platforms”, “many students no longer see the need to travel for education and will study online instead”. So how much of this will stand the test of time? I have my own opinions, but time will tell.

Independent schools, particularly those with large international student populations, have been significantly affected by Covid. Forced campus closures has meant zero boarding revenue, zero ancillary revenue from school cafes & tuck shops and more worryingly in some circumstances, huge numbers of student withdrawals from families who simply do not see the value in online education at ‘face-to-face’ prices. Despite government furlough schemes, the job losses across the sector have been colossal.

Sadly we’ve seen permanent school closures including some very historic institutions whose doors have been open for centuries educating generations of children – some of whom went on to be global leaders and figureheads – that history didn’t save them. At the same time we see a wave of domestic and foreign investment swooping in to pick up a ‘bargain’ of an independent school that’s on its knees, saving it from closing its doors forever.

So how do independent schools come out of this stronger, forge a new future, rebuild what has been lost and do so better than before? I strongly believe it’s through collaboration. Collaboration with a neighbouring institution that was once a fierce competitor may now be the best way to save or strengthen both institutions. We’re already seeing some of this with the merging of multiple institutions into one trust, or the formation of groups by private investment houses.

International students bring cultural diversity, new perspective, new global opportunities & friendships and also much needed revenue. International recruitment is also very expensive with travel, events, staff, marketing campaigns etc. and let’s not forget the ever-increasing commission bill as institutions try to ‘gazump’ one another with agent incentives.

I believe right now to be the best moment in time, possibly ever, for independent schools to come together as a sector or even form small alliances. The global opportunities for independent schools are vast, but usually reserved only for those with the deepest pockets. By coming together, sharing resources and information, the sector could see a monumental advancement on the global stage. It’s there for the taking.

About the author:

Ross Krise has been at the forefront of international student recruitment for the past 12 years working for private education providers in the HE & FE sectors. For the past six years Ross has specialised in marketing & student recruitment for private boarding schools in the UK & USA and was GM for the US division of CATS Colleges. Ross now provides consultancy services to independent schools via his own venture, Arkay Education.

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