News Column

GCC education sector to see $150bn investments

July 6, 2014

Dubai



The education sector in the GCC is expected to witness investments worth $150 billion over the next couple of years due to growing population, said a recent study by Alpen Capital, a leading investment bank with an extensive presence in the GCC and India.

The total number of students in the region is expected to grow at a 3 per cent CAGR between 2013 and 2020 to reach 13.7 million, stated Alpen Capital in the 'GCC Education Industry Report.'

The education sector in the region is undergoing an exciting phase of growth, as the total number of schools is expected to rise at a 2.4 per cent CAGR from 2013 to 2020, concurrent with the increasing number of students, it added.

Alpen Capital report presents the growth prospects of the GCC education sector, based on the current developments within the sector, key market dynamics, and the existing investment opportunities in the region.

The scope of the report encompasses the pre-primary, primary, secondary, tertiary, and vocational training segments across all GCC nations. Further, the report profiles the six GCC countries as well as some noteworthy private educational institutions in the sector.

Commenting on the findings, Sameena Ahmad, the managing director, Alpen Capital, said the growth of the GCC education sector is driven by factors such as population growth, increasing number of expatriates, the rising importance of high-quality education in the society, and a growing spending propensity.

"The sector is gaining additional momentum from governments across the GCC that are acknowledging the need for an education system capable of producing industry-ready graduates. Thus, with increased focus on improving the quality and reach of education in the region, the sector presents an interesting investment opportunity," she added.

Enrolment increase at private schools is expected at a 6.7 per cent CAGR between 2013 and 2020, due to the quality of education they offer and the favorable demographics in the region, said the report.

The contribution of the pre-primary segment to the total enrolments in the industry is expected to increase from 5.8 per cent in 2013 to 7.4 per cent in 2020. Also, the tertiary segment is likely to see a surge in its share of the total enrolments from 14.8 per cent in 2013 to 16.5 per cent in 2020. The primary and secondary segments are anticipated to drop their share to 76.0 per cent in 2020 from 79.4 per cent in 2013, it stated.

In the GCC, the UAE is the most developed education market and an emerging education hub, while Saudi Arabia is the largest market, accounting for over 75 per cent of the gross enrolment within the GCC, said the Alpen Capital in its report.

Both the nations account for relatively mature K-12 and tertiary education segments. Following these leaders are the Qatari and the Omani markets, which are growing, with support from planned education reforms. The education markets of Kuwait and Bahrain are growing at a modest pace, it added.

Mahboob Murshed, the managing director, Alpen Capital, pointed out that the education sector in the region was growing at a fast pace and presented opportunities for private investors.

"By the end of 2014, the GCC population is likely to hit 50 million. The region thus harbours a favourable combination of a rising population base and increasing number of expatriates in the region that is expected to result in an increase in the demand for education," explained Murshed.

The M&A activity in the sector too has picked up pace in recent times, he said.

"Private players, both local and international, are attracted to segments such as the K-12 and higher education, which are the largest within the sector," he noted.

"Further, the new and promising industry-specific, niche sectors such as vocational training, finishing schools, child-skill enhancement, and e-learning are also receiving investor attention due to their growing demand," he added.

Based on purchasing power parity (PPP), the GDP per capita across the region is expected to rise at a 3.1 per cent CAGR between 2012 and 2019. With rising GDP levels, the disposable income of the middle-class across the GCC is expected to surge, presenting the prospect of this segment of the society turning to the expensive, high-quality education of private schools.

Enrolments at private institutions in the UAE accounted for 69 per cent of the total enrolments in 2012, up from 39 per cent in 2000. Higher enrolments at private institutions through the last decade indicate their rising popularity.

Alpen Capital said the governments were focusing on enhancing the quality and reach of education across the GCC. "The member nations are acknowledging the importance of private participation in accomplishing their objectives for the education sector. The result has been an increasing number of private schools and colleges being set up in the region," it stated.

 

Demand for international schools

Private schools offering international curriculum are emerging as a preferred choice over public schools, with increasing number of students shifting from the latter to the former, said the report on the emerging trends.

A growing expatriate base has been spurring the setting up of private schools in the region. Sensing the potential, several international schools are setting up their branches or are entering into affiliations with the existing private institutions in the region. Private institutes across the GCC are also attracting students from the Mena region, who seek quality education within a geographically proximate area.

In order to enhance the global competitiveness of their education systems, governments across the region are focused on the incorporation of Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) into teachers' professional development and their resultant use for classroom instruction.

In particular, the development of high-achieving "smart" schools, based on the Singaporean and Malaysian models, is a rapidly growing phenomenon in the GCC countries, said the report.

Another interesting trend emerging ion the region is that universities are adapting to labour requirements, said the report.

"A demand-supply gap has surfaced in the labour market in the region. Due to increased job security and retirement benefits the locals turn to the government sector and it is forecasted that this will result in an over-crowded job market in the public sector with rising local population."

"As a result, governments are encouraging the youth to undergo technical and vocational training to enhance their employability in the private sector. This has created the need for quality higher education in the Gulf," the report added.

The UAE and Qatar rank high as preferred education destinations by students in the Middle East, according to the study by Alpen Capital.

"Factors such as simple visa procedures and the presence of international education institutes of repute are furthering the appeal of these two nations among students overseas. Students in the region are increasingly turning to Dubai, instead of the UK, to obtain quality international-level education," it stated.

According to the Unesco, Dubai has become the third most popular destination, following France and the US, among students from the Middle East.

Increasing female participation

Over time, the female population has been contributing significantly towards the growth of the higher education segment in the GCC. At 60 per cent enrolment in tertiary segment in 2012, females represent the majority of the total higher education students in the region, said the report.

Although the sector is geared to grow and presents excellent opportunities to investors, it still faces some challenges.

There needs to be a better alignment between the courses offered at education institutions to the industry requirements. This leads to increased demand in skill intensive areas such as engineering as most students across the GCC prefer subjects such as the social sciences and arts.

Increased attention also needs to be given towards research and innovation at education institutions, it added.-TradeArabia News Service

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Source: TradeArabia


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