UK private schools should “increase” scholarships in some markets

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The head of international relations at Bishop’s Stortford College told The PIE News that while international student recruitment shouldn’t be too heavily impacted by the VAT policy, some cost-conscious markets may need more convincing.

“For more price-sensitive markets such as Nigeria and Ghana – where many parents are looking for scholarships or discounted fees for sixth-form places… as a springboard into a good UK university – the pressure will be on schools to increase the size of the awards that they offer or risk losing their market share to more aggressive competitors,” said Tony Evans.

Labour has been very upfront about its plans to subject independent schools to VAT since 2023, when there were rumblings of an election in the near future.

It was initially thought that private language schools would also be subject to the tax – something that ELT schools were extremely concerned about – but Labour has since clarified that they would be exempt, which leaders branded a “win” for the language sector.

However, the issue remains for recruiters at UK boarding schools and private sixth-form colleges, but for the bulk of markets, it should be a “minimal impact”, Evans predicted.

“A UK boarding school education or experience is still reserved in the main for the HNW classes in overseas societies and once they have decided on a plan for their child’s education then they will stick to it regardless of a relatively small increase in the cost,” he explained.

“Of course, there are also many less well-off families for whom a year’s full boarding fees at a UK independent school represents a significant investment and so they may consider a shorter stay, i.e. a term or a semester (one-and-a-half terms).”

Evans noted shorter stays were becoming very popular among EU students who can avoid child student visa expenses by staying the UK for less than six months.

Bishop’s Stortford College, he continued, will be introducing more flexibility for short-term stays to help address any issues with VAT addition.

“Short-term for us is less than a full academic year so we’re talking about one, one-and-a-half (semester) and two-term stays for a limited number of suitable students in specific year groups in both the Prep and Senior Schools.

Once they have decided on a plan for their child’s education then they will stick to it

Tony Evans, Bishop’s Stortford College

“This is something we have been discussing for a couple of years now and which we would have introduced regardless of a probable Labour election victory,” he said, adding that it’s more about adding to the diversity of the school’s offering rather than bracing for the impact of a new Labour government.

He noted that the decision seemed “very poorly thought through” by Labour in terms of its impact on the UK’s domestic market, ignoring the “long list of negative consequences” for both private and state schools – including possible redundancies and even school closures.

“I think the biggest impact of Labour’s policy will be felt in the domestic market, where many families are already struggling to pay for their child and often children to benefit from a private education,” Evans said.

Those students whose parents are then unable to afford private education will most likely spill into an “already overcrowded state sector”, possibly resulting in larger class sizes, more pressure on teachers and a general reduction in support for students.

“In other words, [it will further reduce] the possibility of a positive outcome for all those who are already struggling in our challenged state school system,” Evans added.

The general election will be held on July 4, with Labour currently frontrunners in the polls.

The post UK private schools should “increase” scholarships in some markets appeared first on The PIE News.

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