British school franchising in Ukraine

4th January 2024

The international school sector is growing at a fast pace, with a particular emphasis on – and demand for – schools that offer variations of the British curriculum. China was once the most important non-Anglosphere market, but others are emerging. In this article we focus on Ukraine, because of the improvement in relations between the UK and Ukraine, as well as the heightened exposure of Ukraine in the international community.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw a downturn in the demand from international families to send their children abroad for school, due to health fears and a natural urge to keep family close during uncertain times. While ten years ago approximately 80% of students at British international schools were British expats, the number has now reduced to around 20%. This has resulted in a renewed interested in setting up franchises in target countries, rather than promoting attendance in the UK by international students.

The war in Ukraine has seen hundreds of educational facilities destroyed and thousands damaged, which will, in the medium term, reduce Ukraine’s capacity to educate its population. However, recent initiatives have seen some countries setting up international schools in Ukraine, where, despite the ongoing war, the opportunity to start anew awaits. There have also been international initiatives to repair and reopen some educational facilities.

For example, the European Investment Bank’s ‘Ukraine Early Recovery Programme’ (UERP) has recently reopened a newly-renovated school in Kamyanske, Dnipropetrovsk oblast in eastern Ukraine. The school specialises in teaching foreign languages and is educating a diverse group of students from all different walks of life.

Schools like the British International School Ukraine – the first branch of which opened in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1997 and is affiliated with the Cambridge International School – offer an interesting case study to British Schools seeking to start franchises overseas. A high percentage of their students go on to university abroad, which could be a draw for some Ukrainian parents.

Lviv British School also promotes itself on preparing its students for acceptance to British universities. The demand for British educational facilities is high and, given the support offered by the UK to Ukraine in these challenging times, it is likely that the bond between these countries is only set to grow further.

When embarking on a British school franchise, due diligence is absolutely crucial and should be prioritised when considering launching such a project. It should cover areas such as regulatory penalties, intellectual property and the backgrounds of key individuals involved, particularly where a school is being set up with the help of a local partner. This will also help the school to spot if they would be a good fit in a new country and would be able to offer an effective balance of British education and incorporation of the local culture.

Obtaining licences, complying with educational mandates, property purchases, ensuring sufficient safeguarding and organising the employment of teachers from overseas represent a small sample of the legal issues which should be considered when embarking on a project such as this.

Documents that will need to be negotiated and agreed may include: a memorandum of understandings, cooperation agreements, intellectual property licences and many more, so excellent legal advice is absolutely vital. A UK legal adviser would need to work with Ukrainian lawyers as well as English Lawyers.

Ukraine is still a ‘red flag’ country with regards to the risk of corruption, meaning extra due diligence will be required. However, the strong bond between Britain and Ukraine has made British education even more sought-after. Those schools seeking to expand their scope should consider Ukraine as a potential location to capitalise on this goodwill and enhance the education of Ukraine’s next generation.