UK Schools Expand Across China

More than 40 UK independent schools are due to open in China over the next few years to meet the demand for British-run education abroad.
UK Schools Expand Across China
By Carli Allan
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There was a rapid expansion of UK private schools opening in China last year – and more than 40 new schools are due to start operations from 2021. Despite the Covid pandemic, 14 British independent schools opened in 2020 last year, compared to only four in 2019. During the next few years, leading British school groups including Harrow School, Dulwich College, St Paul’s Girls’ School, King’s College School, Wimbledon, Brighton College, and Wycombe Abbey School are scheduled to open campuses across China.

This boom period for UK private schools in China is highlighted in a new report by Beijing-based education consultancy Venture Education. It states that 40 new British independent schools are scheduled to open in China over the next few years; the majority of these will open in China’s southern coastal provinces, especially Guangdong.

There are currently more than 30 UK independent school brands operating in China, some of which have multiple campuses across the country. The three largest school groups are Harrow School, Dulwich College and Wellington College. This year will see leading schools with royal connections open their first Chinese campuses, including Prince Charles’ boarding school Gordonstoun and Benenden School, once attended by Princess Anne.

According to the report, by the end of the decade, China will have four of the five top UK independent school brands as ranked by their most recent GCSE and A-level results. It states that this rapid growth in China “can create much needed revenue for British independent schools so as to avoid raising tuition fees for local students in the UK”.

The number of British independent schools operating outside of the UK continues to grow globally, with many schools choosing to open campuses in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and the UAE. Closer to home, there was a 6% growth in the number of foreign students attending British independent schools in the UK in 2020, according to the 2020 Independent Schools Council (ISC) Census.

Demand for high-quality, English-medium education remains high – both from expat families for whom the local education system is often inaccessible and sometimes inappropriate, and from local families who seen it as a ‘passport’ to a place at a British or Western university. In addition, British independent schools have a reputation for academic excellence, discipline, pastoral care and an emphasis on extra-curricular activities.

These schools are often rooted in 'Britishness'. Most will offer a traditional English curriculum leading to IGCSEs and A Levels, predominantly UK educated teaching staff, the same distinctive uniform as their home country peers, and boarding school options.

Read more: Getting a Very 'British' Education in Asia, MidEast

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