A comprehensive presentation by Arun Kanwar, a partner at education specialist Cairneagle, got the day off to a great start. Prior to the day itself, Cairneagle had polled attendees to try and gauge the sentiment in the room. Despite some considerable headwinds facing operators, Arun reported there was still a sense of “optimism across the market”. While respondents were sceptical about the potential for fee increases, there was some evidence that staffing pressures were starting to ease as more providers focused on upskilling and training existing staff members.
While the spectre of Brexit loomed over the discussions, Arun lightened the mood by explaining that of the top ten risks to the global economy, the UK’s departure from the European Union only ranked in ninth place – according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Reassurance indeed.
As expected, much of the day focused on how providers can achieve scale in a fragmented market – and the consensus was that growth was still possible, although rising prices means that a successful acquisition strategy needs to be driven by quality and geographical considerations. The days of buying simply for scale are clearly long gone.