For UK schools, the Latin American market has historically plodded in a distant fourth behind China, the Arabian Gulf, and India. However, this might change. China’s increased tendency to look inwards and the strengthening of a legal regime that enforces parochialism has made it less attractive to overseas investors. At the same time improvements in South American political and economic stability have made the region more enticing.
There are still severe problems: for example the continent’s richest country, Argentina, has only narrowly avoided economic catastrophe. Generally, however, the picture is positive. Institutions in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have good links with British universities, and across the entire region there is a perception that the UK offers good quality education.
Several UK institutions are already partnering with Latin America and most recently three UK ed-tech institutions (Mangaghigh, Little Bridge and Twig) were able to have solutions added to the Mexican platform Aprende en Casa. King’s College School’s campus in Panama dates back to 2012; the International Schools Partnership has 11 schools in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru; and Nord Anglia has nine – including two in Mexico and two in Ecuador.
Schools or universities interested in franchise, cooperation or other programmes with Latin American counterparts can first seek country guidance from the Department of Business and Trade.
For a more focussed approach, it is advisable to conduct legal, commercial and reputational due diligence on the counterparty (whether commercial or educational) in the relevant country. This should be done before investing in contract drafting, but when (or if) that stage is reached, UK institutions need to focus on what is enforceable and also to what extent the key operational staff within the Latin American counterparty have understood both their obligations and the intentions of the UK school.
The total value of UK trade with Latin America is increasing hugely – already up by 45% last year to £40 billion – and will continue to do so as UK global engagement continues to diversify. It would be surprising if UK education, one of its greatest assets, did not play a big part in that increase.
For advice or more information on the subject please contact Nicolas Groffman.