Why Are Wealthy Families Sending Their Children to Top UK Boarding Schools?

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April, 2017

Wealthy families have long been attracted to the idea of sending their children to UK boarding schools. This has become a practice that is even more popular since the UK referendum vote to leave the European community occurred.

According to the annual Wealth Report of Knight Frank consultancy group, the wealthy have traditionally sent their children to the US for education but the Brexit related turnaround of the pound’s value has now made the UK more competitive.

The report is focused on those who have £30m or more in net assets – those known as the UHNWIs demographic and otherwise referred to as ultra-high net worth individuals. Evidence published in the report points to the fact that the USA, Switzerland and Australia will always attract overseas students but that the true ‘gold standard’ of education is attending one of the UK’s private boarding schools.

What exactly makes the UK so popular

The combination of quality of life, the favourable currency exchange rate and access to what are some of the best universities in the world is the appeal for ambitious families when it comes to opting for a British education. It’s certainly not all about the teaching. The appeal also lies in the number of extra-curricular activities that are available in addition to the quality of life. Previously families sent their children to US schools, not because they considered them to be better, but because they are less expensive.  Now the UK is looking better value, the schools are being bombarded with applications from overseas students.

With the pound at a 31-year low, following the UK’s decision to leave the EU through a referendum vote, interest is rising. Chinese students are currently the largest group of overseas pupils. There has been a rise in the number of Chinese pupils by more than 190 percent during the last 10 years.

Families in both Russia and the Middle East are attracted to the fact that the best universities in both the US and the UK can be accessed through British schools. According to the report, there is also widespread concern that education taken at US schools will only really allow for pupils to gain access to US universities.

Recruitment campaigns for overseas students

Recruitment campaigns are currently being run by many top performing schools, especially in countries where there are a rising number of affluent families, such as in Hong Kong and China. Although some schools are building a local presence, there is more credibility applied to attending the true Harrow School than the Harrow Beijing campus.

Currently 5% of pupils at Independent schools come from overseas. One of the first questions asked by parents is about how many pupils from their own country are in attendance. Schools will try to keep the number of overseas students below 20%, but they still want a diverse mix. For example, Eton and Wellington College are both known for having 15% overseas students. This has doubled from the 8% that it was twenty years ago.

To summarise, there are many reasons why affluent families want to send their children to top UK boarding schools. The way of life, the standard of education and in today’s global business structure, having children make friends with people from all over the world be can be very attractive.  If you’re considering doing this, we recommend that you make enquiries early on as there are often waiting lists in operation. The earlier you are on those, the better.

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