Looking back, looking forward - What next for Study Group?

Time lapse of night sky

Looking back, looking forward - What next for Study Group?

CEO Emma Lancaster looks ahead to Study Group’s future in a changing context for international education.

2020 was always going to be a milestone year for Study Group. Our 25th anniversary as a company promised a chance to reflect on the educational opportunities we had supported and what we thought would be important for our future.

In the event, our anniversary was certainly memorable but for COVID-19 rather than anniversary events. Yet as I look back over what we’ve achieved together for our students throughout the pandemic, I am very proud Study Group students have gone on to thrive as undergraduate and postgraduate students in excellent universities across the world, supported at every step of the journey at a distance or in-person by a remarkable team.

But even before the pandemic, we knew Higher and International Education was changing. In many ways, COVID-19 accelerated what had already begun.

Investing in innovation

As well as the impacts of COVID-19, 2020 was the year in which digital education solutions were really put into practice at scale across higher education. So our investment in leading-edge online education company insendi at the very beginning of 2020 could not have been more timely.

Our strategy had already acknowledged the need for a far greater integration of digital technologies into every aspect of our work. Our partners and students would expect nothing less as the world changed and our experience of many services with it.

We already knew a fusion of EdTech expertise, teaching quality and a high-quality pedagogically-based platform could really help us strengthen our offer to students. A global pandemic showed us just how important it would be.

We learned other things too. Restrictions on travel meant in-country teaching and support at a remote Study Hub were the right response to student need. We worked more closely than ever before with agents, partners and students to respond to concerns and opportunities. Necessity was the mother of invention.

And beyond the technical and the practical, we also saw the beginnings of new risks and trends in geo-politics, the future of study and employment. From the concerns and questions came new ideas about how to make a good education even better.

I won’t in any way underestimate the challenge of COVID-19 and its impact on education, but we have worked hard, learned well and are looking towards the future, determined not to waste this experience and to work closely with our university partners on what is next.

What next for Study Group?

The first 25 years of Study Group were shaped by a vision of high-quality education fused with the opportunities offered by unprecedented global mobility. This vision still inspires, but the challenge we face is how to ensure we meet the context of a changed and changing world.

Some trends are clear:

Digital transformation - The impact of high-quality online and personalised learning will be increasingly important for students, whether they are located at a Study Centre or accessing preparation remotely online. Young people expect a high-quality, seamless and responsive digital experience in all aspects of their lives, including education, to supplement 24/7 their in-person experiences.

Building learning communities - Communities are built online and in person, and communication moves rapidly between the two. Face to face tuition and immersive environments are supplemented by the opportunity to revisit learning at a time to suit you, to address weaknesses and receive personalised feedback which in turn shapes teaching and revision materials. The potential to integrate the digital and human is an exciting of real change, so we will continue to more closely integrate our EdTech expertise into a whole Group online capacity, which informs all of our work and supports student learning.

Global reach with local impact - One of Study Group’s great strengths is our global reach and long-standing presence in all the regions students come from. But new ways of thinking mean we can be even more global in our approach. Like our partners, we expect to see a growth in opportunities to study at least part of a study programme closer to home, opening up access to new cohorts of students for whom price, employment or flexibility may previously have been barriers. Where the benefits are clear, we will be open to new forms of digital and in-person delivery right across the world, working with partners when it makes sense.

Extending opportunity - We may also see very different kinds of students come together to access common assets or support around employability or specialist expertise. We will work more closely with institutions and employers to offer the kind of teaching and support previously only available on the most prestigious executive education programmes.

A trusted partner in innovative education solutions

Study Group’s future success is inseparable from the success of university partners and students, and one of our greatest assets is how our expert team works with our partners to help them achieve their strategic aims.

Collaboration and trust are key. We offer our expertise to universities and working strategically together to respond to challenges and opportunities as trusted partners in international education and innovation. Blending the proven benefits of an outstanding university education with a flexible and progressive approach to how it is delivered will be key to our future as a leader in international education and a successful, sustainable company.

In the short-term, this means an ever-greater focus on in-depth collaboration with our partners, helping drive their own success.

Trust is earned and over the years our university partners have entrusted us to deliver an excellent standard of preparatory teaching and support. Over the next three years, we will build on our expertise to successfully engage international students at every stage of the student journey with our innovative, digitally enabled solutions and excellent in-person teaching and student support.

But we intend to go further, strengthening this trust as an expert partner at the stage of strategy, innovation and design. Our intention is that our university partnerships will mature to become deeper, more collaborative and more strategic as we work together to strengthen key aspects of international student education or innovate to create opportunities and impact. We will also drive the integration of leading-edge digital technologies into all aspects of our operations, enhancing the experience of students and creating value for our partners.

Pace and purpose

How and where we grow will be determined by this approach. In areas of the greatest opportunity, I am clear we must take the initiative to invest, innovate or expand, never forgetting that educational quality and trust are at our core.

We will also ensure our internal structures reflect these challenges and adapt accordingly, fully integrating digital transformation into every aspect of our work and ensuring we can work in smart ways with our partners to co-design education innovation that meets the changing needs of students, wherever they are.

Our ability to do this well will depend of course not only on technology but on human beings, our people - an outstanding team of professionals and teachers trusted by our university partners to deliver excellent quality.

But we will also listen carefully to the voices of those who will help us ensure the services and education we offer to fit the needs and leading-edge international education now and in the future - our university colleagues and international students themselves, agents and academic innovators. We will engage ever more closely with a changing sector as a trusted partner, sharing our expertise and learning from and with others.

Study Group is well placed to strengthen its position and I am determined we will have the shape and mindset to succeed. Looking ahead to the next 25 years, I see Study Group as more genuinely global and agile than ever before. I am determined that we will continue to embrace the innovative mindset which is crucial to growth and that we will positively change to meet the needs of our time.