From Harrow boaters in Hong Kong to Brighton College blazers in Bangkok, some of the best-known British day and boarding schools are bringing their traditions to schools overseas.
Several British independent schools have followed the early examples of Harrow and Dulwich by opening campuses abroad, either as sister schools or as international schools in partnership with a foreign independent school. According to the Independent Schools Council’s (ISC) 2021 census, British private schools currently operate more than 80 campuses abroad. While they are still a small sector in the international schools market, overseas outposts of some of Britain’s most elite private schools are highly regarded by parents worldwide.
These British schools abroad have the potential to offer the best of both worlds – all the perceived benefits of a UK education with all the advantages of attending a school with a truly global outlook.
British independent schools have a reputation for academic excellence, discipline, pastoral care and an emphasis on extra-curricular activities, as well as the international recognition of GCSEs and A Level qualifications. As well as being rooted in this ‘Britishness, these schools must also adapt to their local market. So, while on the surface they may look the same as their British counterparts, dig just a little deeper and in some ways they could not be more different.
Languages such as Mandarin or Arabic may be a compulsory part of the curriculum; many are all-through, co-ed schools for two to 18-year-olds (in contrast to many UK schools which start at Year 9, and are all boys or all girls schools); there is the option to be a day student or boarder (many UK schools limit or do not offer the day option); the school population tends to be considerably higher than in the UK; air-conditioned sports halls replace the muddy rugby fields of the home counties; and modern high-rise campuses often stand in place of red-brick Victorian buildings.
For parents outside of the UK, it is worth assessing the connections to the home school. In most cases the school’s name is franchised to an independent party overseas, who finances the campus and pays the home school a fee. One of the largest international franchises is Dulwich College, which has seven colleges and two high schools in Asia teaching more than 5,000 children. A franchise as opposed to direct ownership by itself is neither good, not bad. However, clearly if it is a franchise a prospective parent needs to confirm whether the values of the home and overseas school are aligned.
Finally in the course of our research we have found the cost of studying at a British school in Asia and the UAE is slightly cheaper than in the UK – around 10%. You’ll find the lowest tuition fees at campuses in Thailand.
WhichSchoolAdvisor lists 20 day and boarding schools, which are bringing a very British brand of education to families across South East Asia and the Middle East.
Next: British day and boarding schools in Singapore