Geo-politics and Europe's international schools

The international schools market in Europe has been a healthy but static one for many years, so why so much change now?


Brexit and other geo-political factors are causing change in Europe’s international schools market for the first time in many years. It's primarily focused on a few key cities:

Frankfurt leading growth
Frankfurt is attracting many new businesses because of its infrastructure, commercial property prices, and well-educated workforce, and several international schools are benefiting from the economic boom in Frankfurt’s Rhein-Main region. “There has certainly been an increase in interest within the banking and financial sector due to Brexit, and the general strength of the economy is also a major driver” says Paul Fochtman, Head of Frankfurt International School, where demand for places is stronger than it has been for many years. “I think the international schools market will develop strongly in key cities within Germany over the next few years,” he adds. 

Picture shows Frankfurt International School

A brand new international school, King’s College Frankfurt will open in August 2018 to respond to increased demand from companies relocating from the UK. The school will offer the National Curriculum of England with IGCSE and A levels to provide learning continuation for expatriate families moving their children from schools they’ve been attending in Britain. 

Elsewhere in Germany, international schools in Hamburg and Stuttgart are also seeing some growth in enrolment due to the strong local economy attracting businesses and expatriates to the city.

Paris attracting attention
In Paris, structural improvements including tax reforms and labour law changes, have enhanced the environment for business investment. In 2019, the European Banking Authority (EBA) will join the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) in making Paris its home. This will strengthen the city as a major financial centre and help to position it as a serious contender for many multinationals, particularly those in the banking sector. 

As a result, demand at the international schools in the city is increasing. The American School of Paris, for example, has so far experienced an increase of 54% on applications for the forthcoming academic year. “In the wake of the Brexit referendum and under the Macron government Paris has become increasingly attractive to financial services firms and multinational corporations seeking a European base,” says Head of School, Mark Ulfers. 

Amsterdam and Rotterdam in demand 
A move to The Netherlands as a result of Brexit by some company and agency headquarters, which includes European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam and Unilever to Rotterdam, will result in an increased demand for international school places. 

Director at The International School of Amsterdam Edward Greene says: “We anticipate an increase in admission requests stemming from Brexit.” However, typical of many international schools in Europe right now, The International School of Amsterdam has little room to accommodate big growth. “Our school's waiting lists continue to grow in many grades and we will not be able to provide any real additional space without further expansion,” he says.  

Some school expansions and campus developments are already underway to increase capacity at international schools and more government-funded international schools are expected to open in several cities throughout the country. But, to respond to Brexit opportunities, international schools in the right cities are the necessity. 

Eastern Europe's appeal
It’s not only Western European cities that are seeing increased demand because of geo-political influences. In Eastern Europe, some international schools are experiencing their highest demand in history. 

In addition to Brexit, several other factors for increased school admissions here include the favourable cost of living compared to Western Europe, and strengthened US-Poland relations which are attracting some companies from the United States. 

“Various entities are planning to move to Warsaw and establish a corporate or logistical presence in Poland in the next 3 to 5 years,” says Jon Zurfluh, Director of The American School of Warsaw. “Corporate leaders to whom I have spoken see Poland as a safe haven due to political stability, lower cost of living, and a track record of low inflationary rate.  While many European Union locations may be seeing similar inquiries and growth, the NATO presence and electrical hub status of Poland in the energy exchange market continue to be a draw to a variety of corporate areas,” he says.

Attracting demand
Foreign companies are selecting new city locations in both East and Western Europe where personal and corporate taxation levels, availability of reasonable housing, safety, affordability, good international schooling, and first-rate infrastructure are all accessible. “Those cities in Europe that can meet such expectations will see a steady, gradual, increase in the number of expats,” says Edward Green.

But it’s not just expatriates who are causing Europe’s international schools market to expand. There’s also increasing demand from local citizens too as more families get to know the benefit and availability of their neighbourhood international school. “An ongoing dissatisfaction of public schools in many countries [in Europe] is having a positive effect on international schools,” says Marc Ott, Chair of the Swiss Group of Schools and Head of Leysin American School in Switzerland “It seems that demand is shifting to a combined local international education: schools offering bilingual and national, combined with international programmes.” 

ISC Research will have a new Europe Market Intelligence Report to support school expansion and new school development in Western Europe in July. If you’d like more information about school development in Europe, contact me 

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