In 2018 the UAE's largest education group had been seeking to further expand in the emirates, while ramping up its international presence via joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions. The company had also been looking to establish a global services business unit.
Parts of that strategy now seem to be in the process of being shelved, at least for the foreseeable future. While the company has moved ahead with the JV to acquire the Ma’ariff Education Group in Saudi Arabia, it comes at the cost of structural changes to staffing as the organisation clearly looks to be leaner and more cost efficient as it grows into markets like Egypt and the KSA.
The immediate fallout is the closure of the Global Services Business unit, and with it, the redundancy of its CEO, Zafar Raja, who had been with the company for almost five years. Perhaps more importantly for its schools, GEMS Education is also dismantling its SVP Education layer, meaning the departures of James McDonald, Brendan Law, and Peter Derby-Crook, three senior educationalists that had been responsible for improving the educational performance of schools across the company.
James McDonald had been responsible for the education group's US & IB curriculum schools; Brendan Law for its diverse set of UK schools, while Peter Derby-Crook had led improvements in the group's Indian curriculum schools.
It is no secret that schools across the UAE are facing considerable challenges to admissions and enrolments, with the most impacted, the top-tier premium schools with higher fees and, if at capacity, higher margins.
Further rounds of redundancies are believed to be ongoing as changes are made further down the organisational structure, although it is not clear yet how deep they will go. According to those close to the matter the hope is that by getting ahead of changed economic conditions the school group will remain buoyant into 2020, even if current market conditions do not begin to improve in the near future.
WhichSchoolAdvisor.com did reach out to GEMS Education for a statement. It told us:
"We don’t comment on rumours or speculation. Large organisations often go through right sizing exercises. As is normal business practice, we undertake strategic management moves that are aligned with the organisational growth strategy.”
“We continue to invest in education and expand our presence globally in addition to strengthening our presence and market share in the UAE. Our primary focus is on ensuring we provide quality education to all our students across different curricula to meet the aspirations of the parents and students.”