Acquisition is latest example of growing trend
Guangdong-based education company Bright Scholar has purchased United Kingdom-headquartered international school network CATS Colleges for 150 million pounds ($187.6 million), in the latest of a string of UK education acquisitions by Chinese buyers.
Bright Scholar, a major operator of international and bilingual K-12 schools in China, called the deal a significant acceleration in the expansion of its overseas portfolio. Bright Scholar has already bought three other UK schools over the last year.
CATS Colleges is a global school network that focuses on international students. The company has seven campuses and 10 international language schools across the UK, the United States and China.
“The acquisition of CATS expands Bright Scholar’s significant presence outside of China as we continue to build a global network of premium schools,” said Bright Scholar Executive Vice Chairman Jerry He.
“CATS has grown into one of the most innovative and successful independent education providers in the United Kingdom and the United States.”
Bright Scholar operates 69 schools in China for more than 42,000 students. He said that his company and CATS”share the same beliefs “in combining” traditional values and forward-thinking ideas”to help students realize their potential.
“The addition of CATS’ international network of schools will help Bright Scholar share best practices and innovations to raise the standards of teaching and improve the learning experience of our students,” He said.
“The acquisition will also set the stage for the accelerating expansion of our overseas school portfolio, distinguishing us as a global premium education service provider.”
CATShas campuses in Boston in the US, Cambridge, London, and Canterbury in the UK, and in Shanghai, China. Together with the language schools, these institutions serve more than 2,000 students from around 80 nations.
Chinese companies have increased their interest in British education properties in recent years. The demand stems in part from a rising middle class that is willing to pay for bilingual learning in order to gain entry into elite English-speaking universities.
Last month, Bright Scholar announced it had spent a total of 38 million pounds on the purchase of St Michael’s School in Wales and Bosworth Independent College in England. Last year the company bought another British school, Bournemouth Collegiate, and in 2015, Shanghai-based education provider Dipont agreed a partnership with King’s College School in London to set up three British-style schools in China.
Chinese groups have also paid particular attention to the UK’s early years education sector.
Last year, Chinese Oriental Cambridge Education Group and British nursery chain Busy Bees signed an agreement to open 20 nurseries across China in a deal thought to be worth 75 million pounds.
Chinese company JiaYi Education purchased Devon-based nursery group Bambinos in 2018, and announced plans to open British-style preschools in China and acquire further childcare centers in the UK.
In 2017, Chinese investors Largreen Education partnered with UK company British Early Education to open an international kindergarten in Yixing, Jiangsu province.
Beyond acquisitions, China has stepped up exchange agreements with British schools to boost bilingual learning. The Shenzhen Education Bureau recently selected East Anglian state-funded academy Reepham High School and College as a partner for an educational exchange.