The higher education market is estimated to be worth €5 billion and is expected to reach €6 billion by the start of the academic year in 2024, with private groups making their mark.
Creation of new schools, acceleration of digital learning and work-study programmes, acquisitions and alliances… the craze for the higher education sector is clear. As Martine Depas, Senior Partner at AMALA, who specialises in education and has more than fifty mergers and acquisitions in this field, explains, “Twenty years ago, everyone wanted to invest in healthcare. Today, this is true of higher education. Young people, their families and society are placing more emphasis than ever on education. And the regulations in France are rather liberal”.
This growth is explained in particular by a constant rise in the level of qualifications, in the face of which private institutions are gaining more and more ground, and now train nearly 25% of students (736,000 young people) *. A sector that has been able to pull itself up by its bootstraps and prepare for this success. “The private education sector owes its success to its agility. It responds to needs that are not met by the public” analyses Martine Depas in an article published in La Croix last December.
In fact, private institutions, whether profit-making or not, are positioned as the key players best able to meet the needs of the economy and to offer professional training via speakers from the business world, as opposed to public education which is more associated with theory and research. This trend has been reinforced by the 2018 reform of work-linked training, thanks to which any school can become an apprentice training centre.
Could this perhaps be viewed as a revaluation of concrete skills in the face of diplomas? And should we fear a decline in the quality of training? “When more than 700,000 positions remain unfilled, you can’t blame schools for adapting to the needs of the economy”. These courses do not aim to train doctoral students but measure their success rate in terms of employability above all else.
It is in this context that Martine Depas joined Amala, with the desire to be able to accompany large-scale deals over a long period of time, particularly because, as she already anticipates, “due to a lack of resources to face up to the competition, certain schools attached to a chamber of commerce and industry could be bought out”.
Agile, concrete and resolutely attractive, the higher education sector is definitely one to watch closely!
*article published in La Croix on 26.12.22