July 12, 2019 | KL Community

Globalizing schools in China: the necessities, the partnerships and the potential concerns

Globalizing schools in China: the necessities, the partnerships and the potential concerns

We recently interviewed our Vice President of Academics, Frank Phillips. As Head of St. Mary’s School, and now as its President, Frank instituted several exciting changes at St. Mary’s School, including launching eight St. Mary’s campuses in China with KL.

With so much experience, we wanted to ask Mr Phillips why globalizing campuses in China can be so advantageous.

“There are several good reasons to pursue global branch campuses in China, some philosophical and others more practical”, he said.

“Philosophically, it’s extremely important for US schools…to come to understand China and to foster friendships with our Chinese counterparts. To have partnership schools in China which offer exchange opportunities…and to be able to count the alumni of these schools as alumni of your American school, is invaluable.”

Mr. Phillips also has a Masters in Business from Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business. We wanted to know more about the practical, or business-minded, advantages of setting up global campuses.

“Practically, these schools help American private schools achieve the often-mentioned and praised goal of diversifying their revenue streams in a significant way, allowing a school to do business with the world instead of just its local community.”

Mr. Phillips also pointed out that there was the ability for gifted students in St Mary’s China campuses to transfer to US campuses.

“We have had several shining stars transfer to St. Mary’s [Oregon] over the years and earn acceptance to top-20 universities, including a few to the Ivies.”

Not only was there the benefit of being able to transfer high-performing students, but to able to do the same with staff.

“…we got to know the teachers at our campuses and see the quality of their work. There is no better way to hire than to be able to observe people actually teach for several years before offering them jobs.  These KL to St. Mary’s Oregon teachers have all proven to be solid additions to our faculty.”

We also asked Mr. Phillips what the benefits of the cooperation with KL and Chinese partners were.

“Unless an American school has absolute and total expertise in finding Chinese partner schools of excellent reputation and good intentions, there is no way to ensure success in China.”

He pointed out that there were many difficult and necessary processes to navigate, like bi-lingual contracting, licensing procedures with the Chinese Government, and mandatory dual-diploma programs.

“There is no way an American school can successfully cobble together a dual-diploma program without expert input from a company such as KL, which has the English and Chinese-speaking staff on the ground throughout China who are experienced with both systems.”

He also pointed out that when you open a campus in another country, you have to deal with what it means to become an international employer.

“…most American schools neither desire, nor have the means, nor the insurance coverage, to become international employers with all of the attendant risk and liability.  KL allows American schools to safely and affordably expand into the realm of international education, without any UBIT issues.”

With his first-hand knowledge, we wanted to know if Mr. Phillips would encourage independent American schools to try and break into the global campus model.

“For schools with a great ‘product’, but which contend with the competitive forces and demographic issues that face most schools, the ability to market one’s school instantly and at no cost overseas in a fantastic opportunity.”

He went on to say that building relationships with China, even for successful American schools with long waiting lists, was a contemporary goal to have, and “certainly in keeping with the missions of every school which has a mission statement.”

Mr Phillips said that many schools that are interested in globalizing their campus had raised their own concerns about ‘reputational risk’.

“With KL, that risk is very much minimized due to KL’s expertise in selecting good partner schools.”

He wanted to assure schools that diversifying their reach would not damage their school’s reputation, but enhance it.

“What the American school ends up with is a distinguished and accomplished international alumni base that will actually enhance their reputation over time….and may yield other benefits, in the areas of advancement and development, as these students go on to [achieve] success in many different fields and in many different countries.”

Overall, from Frank’s point of view, globalizing schools in China is very necessary for both schools and the relevant stakeholders to enjoy the great advantages. There are potential risks, but there are also effective measures to avoid the risks, such as selecting the best reliable partner to work with.