On Trend: Global Education Hotspots: Where Global Citizens Send Their Children

One of the main reasons for migration among high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) is schooling and education opportunities for their children, along with safety, security, and business opportunities. This is according to Knight Frank’s 2018 Global Wealth Report, which further found that almost half of respondents with clients in Africa said wealthy families were becoming more likely to look abroad for a good school. For Latin America, the figure was 45%, the Middle East 40%, and Asia 38%. New World Wealth’s 2018 report, titled Global Wealth Migration Review, moreover found that the main reason millionaires are leaving China and other Asian countries is to educate their children in Western or Australian schools that they believe will give their offspring better education and networking opportunities to develop their careers.

American Freedom
At the age of 13, the son of wealthy Taiwanese businessman Joseph Tsai was sent to one of the most expensive schools in the US, namely Lawrenceville School, where annual tuition costs up to USD 62,000 a year. Tsai then went on to finish his doctorate at Yale University and co-founded Chinese retail technology giant Alibaba. American universities are highly sought-after institutions, with many international HNWIs using prestigious American schools such as Lawrenceville, Hermon, and St. Albans as stepping stones to ultimately enroll their children in the Ivy League.

Founded in 1810, Lawrenceville School in New Jersey is also well known for its athletics and includes other impressive alumni such as former CEO of The Walt Disney Company Michael Eisner. Northfield Mount Hermon is the third most expensive boarding school in the US. The co-ed establishment has some of the best facilities in the country: its performing arts center is exceptional, and the extra-curricular program is especially extensive. Notable alumni include academic Edward Said. St. Albans in Washington DC is labeled the most expensive in the country and boasts an exceptional level of prestige. The all-boys’ school enjoys a near-peerless academic reputation especially renowned for its English literature teaching, with notable alumni including American author and intellectual Gore Vidal and former US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings 2018 report found that Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (ranked 30th) is the most international American university, followed by Harvard University (51st) and Carnegie Mellon University (57th). While the Institute of  International Education’s 2016 report, titled Open Doors Report on International Educational  Exchange, found that the number of foreign students at US colleges and universities surpassed one million for the first time that year, nearly 4 in 10 higher education institutions in the US reported a small but striking dip (–2%) in international undergraduate enrollment after a decade of steady growth. By region, students from China and India, making up nearly half of all international students, sank from 25% to 23% and 27% to 23% respectively. In a 2017 survey, published under the headline Will International Students Stay Away?, media company Inside Higher Ed found that the highest declines in undergraduate applications (39%) were from students in the Middle East.

With immigration and political tension making the US less favorable to some nationalities, Australia, Canada, and the UK are growing in popularity for migrating HNWIs, especially those Asian citizens seeking Western-style education and exposure.

East Meets West
International enrollment in Australia peaked in 2017, with 13% growth over the year before, according to a 2017 finding by market intelligence agency ICEF Monitor. Half of these students are from China, with most entering the higher education sector.

Overall, Australia is renowned for its education system. In fact, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data on “export income to Australia from international education activity in 2017”, the country’s third-largest export in the previous year was international education, which grew from USD 16.6 billion to a record high of USD 20 billion. As highlighted by the Times Higher Education’s global university rankings, the Australian National University is ranked 10th, with the University of Melbourne 16th and the University of New South Wales 23rd on the list.

An estimated 11,000 millionaires moved to Australia last year according to New World Wealth’s 2018 report, making it the number-one country for millionaire migrants. The US ranked second with 10,000, followed by Canada with 8,000. The report found that millionaires are looking mainly for a good education for their children and personal safety for the entire family.

In terms of secondary education, Cranbrook School in Sydney is Australia’s most reputable independent boys’ school. It is also the most expensive. Dating back to 1918, the school has commanded much respect over the years for academic and sporting excellence. Today, students graduate with a badge of prestige, with famous old boys including billionaire James Packer and Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Murray Rose.

Canada, similarly, presents HNWIs with a plethora of attractive schooling options. Well known for its relative safety and political stability, institutions such as St. Michaels University School, Upper Canada College, and Appleby College provide some of the world’s highest standards. Tuition at St. Michaels University School, for instance, will cost USD 50,000 per annum, but the school has the largest advanced placement program in Canada, uniquely focusing on bringing university-level academic skills to the classroom. Alumni typically go on to study at prestigious Canadian universities such as the University of British Columbia, McGill University, and the University of Alberta, or abroad to the US.

As noted by the Global Wealth Report, although Canada, Australia, the US, Switzerland, and a number of other countries all attract students from overseas, the UK’s private boarding schools are still seen as the gold standard by many, according to specialist education advisors who help HNWIs find the right schools for their children. The report cites data published by the UK’s Independent Schools Council — accounting for about 80% of the total number of pupils in independent schools — which reveals that global demand for British education has risen strongly over the past 10 years, particularly from China but also from Africa and Russia.

Known for its near-royal status, Hurtwood House in Surrey is regarded as Britain’s most pricey boarding school. The institution is famed for its arts facilities and for putting on lavish productions, including a recent staging of the musical Grease, which had a budget of USD 105,000. Founded in 1853, Cheltenham Ladies’ College is another well-regarded school in the UK.

Global Wealth Report notes that some of the biggest drivers for British education are a relaxed currency, quality of life, and access to leading universities. Oxford and Cambridge are ranked number one and two in the world by Times Higher Education, respectively. At the same time, both institutions are ranked eighth and ninth as being the most international. Imperial College London, furthermore, is ranked the fifth most international university, with more than half of its 15,000 students being foreigners, hailing from more than 125 countries.

Asian Prestige
In Asia, Singapore and Hong Kong are regarded as having the region’s most international universities. The University of Hong Kong, for instance, has embarked on a mission to become “Asia’s Global University”, which includes the goal of 50% of its undergraduates being given two opportunities to study outside Hong Kong during their degree by 2019, and for all students to have this opportunity by 2022. Overall, Hong Kong’s leading university has more than 20,000 students, with almost 8,000 from abroad, and is ranked the third most international tertiary institution by Times Higher Education.

Another very sought-after schooling system is that of Singapore. According to Times Higher Education, the National University of Singapore (NUS) is Asia’s top-ranked and most international university. Many students are drawn to the academic excellence and global exposure, especially to the West. With English as the primary language of instruction, many government agencies and  private sector companies also offer full scholarships for top students to pursue their undergraduate and graduate studies at foreign universities such as those in Australia, the UK, and the US.

Besides the globalized education focus and overall quality, another driver for students studying in Singapore is ultimately to acquire residence. Singaporean citizenship comes with a plethora of privileges, such as job and financial eligibility. The majority (82%) of international students in the  country who applied to obtain permanent residence were successful, according to Professionals in International Education referencing the country’s minister of home affairs Josephine Teo. According to Times Higher Education’s website, the percentage of international students is 34% and 33% for  NUS and Nanyang Technological University, respectively, the latter of which is ranked the sixth most international university.

Pictured here is the National University of Singapore, which is the largest and oldest institute of higher learning in the country, having been built in 1905


European Excellence
Switzerland is found to be the most popular destination for international students. This is partly due to the fact that it’s surrounded by five big European countries, including Germany and France, and accommodates most common European languages along with English. In terms of Swiss tertiary education, the country outperforms all other countries when it comes to its international exposure. École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne ranks as the most international university in the world, according to Times Higher Education. The institution prides itself on research in science and technology, welcoming professors and staff of over 120 nationalities. The university is followed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, which boasts 19,000 students from over 120 countries and is the top university in Europe.

The country is also renowned for its luxurious boarding schools. In fact, ten of the world’s most expensive boarding schools are in Switzerland. St George’s International School, for instance, is a boarding school nestled in the Alps and home to about 480 students who can graduate with either the International Baccalaureate or the American High School Diploma. Students at Aiglon are required to participate in morning meditation and can take part in art programs, sports, expeditions, and humanitarian work. The school says 30% of its students join universities ranked in the top 25 in the world, including those in the Ivy League, MIT, and Oxbridge, after graduating. Annual fees at these institutions are north of USD 100,000 — more than double that of the top British schools.

Le Rosey is well-known as the world’s most expensive boarding school, where students get to live at the 14th-century Château du Rosey and have access to a private nautical center on Lake Geneva, a spa, and afternoon horse-riding or skiing. The roughly 70 acre campus contains boarding houses, academic buildings with about 50 classrooms and eight science laboratories, and a library with 30,000 volumes. The campus also includes a theater, three dining rooms where students dine in formal dress, two cafeterias, and a chapel. Each morning, students have a chocolate break in true  Swiss style. It is known as the school of kings and counts — among its alumni are the Shah of Iran, Prince Rainier of Monaco, and King Farouk of Egypt.

International higher education is becoming more exclusive, in terms of high fees and shifting immigration policies. The US-based National Science Board’s Science & Engineering Indicators 2018 shows that the number of international students at US universities declined in 2017 after years of substantial growth. This is mostly attributed to the policies and sentiments of President Donald Trump. As geopolitics continue to play a role in migration policies, smaller and relatively stable countries such as Australia and Canada experience an influx of HNWIs and students, mostly hailing from China and India. Only time will tell how these countries will manage to attract wealth and skills on the one hand, and curb the reliance on foreign countries while increasing overall infrastructure and capacity on the other.

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