Cormack Consultancy - Market access in Europe

Key Recent Trends

The key trends we have picked up across many regions this month are:

Housekeeping: Several European universities are looking at spring cleaning their UK partnership list in anticipation of BREXIT. We were speaking to a well ranked Italian university which currently has over 20 mobility agreements and further MoU and research agreements. They are looking at how to rationalize these and create more strategic relationships with fewer partners, very much the same way as UK universities are developing their plans.

Course Licensing: European universities are looking to license unaccredited course material to either supplement their current provision or launch new English taught degree programmes. Last month we were successful in concluding deals in the licensing of course material for a Digital Marketing Masters degree as well as UK Common and Corporate law modules for an undergraduate programme.

Digitising of courses: There is significant funding available for universities across Central Europe for the digitising of content and as a result there are opportunities for educational technology companies with relevant platforms.

Private Sector and UK universities: We have completed the first phases of two major projects; one is the creation of a private nursing school for a Romanian private health provider (200 undergraduate students a year) and the other is the creation of a university centre focusing on computer science delivering undergraduate and postgraduate programmes (on a franchise model).  We are about to start work on two larger projects, the main one mentioned above will be looking to create a centre which will have 3,000 students (2,000 non-EU).

Europe targeting UK Research Skills

As well as looking at the potential benefits BREXIT will bring universities in Europe looking to increase student numbers it is also clear that several European governments see the potential squeeze on  research funding for UK universities post BREXIT as an opportunity to encourage collaboration between their institutes and leading UK research intensive universities as a way of improving the research performance of indigenous institutions.  Structures are being created that will allow the UK university the chance to continue to be involved in bidding for research money, and extra funding allocated to facilitate the development of the relationships.

Whats Happening this Month

The advantage of having local staff on the ground in around 30 markets round the globe is that we can pick up some useful information on how the education market is developing, and how we can support UK universities and colleges in getting involved in projects which will support that strategic direction. Below are some nuggets we picked up over the last few weeks.


A report issued by the Portuguese government at the end of January showed that there was a 12% increase in non-EU international students last year, continuing a recent trend which has seen international student numbers increase by 75% over the past 5 years.  Most are coming from ex-Portuguese colonies – Brazil Angola and Mozambique.  There has also been a substantial increase in students coming from the EU, particularly Italy and Poland. This increase in the international student market has seen some substantial international investment (including from Collegiate) and we are working with a growing number of UK university clients on the development of a two-year Masters programme (1 year in Portugal on in the UK).

We are also seeing increased interest from Portuguese Polytechnics who deliver both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees looking for UK partners for dual degree programmes.  Areas of interest include Engineering, Business and Creative Industries.


Interest is growing in the support UK universities and colleges can offer to both Community Colleges and the private sector in the development and delivery of apprenticeships.

President Trump signed an executive order in June 2016 accelerating the development of apprenticeship provision and empowering a range of organisations including community colleges, universities, trade unions, trade associations and private companies to develop and deliver provision.

We have several UK colleges and universities in discussions with community colleges about supporting them in the development of relevant provision (consultancy, curriculum development, employer engagement and training).  We also have some of our university clients in direct discussions with US companies about developing and delivering provision for them.

We are also in discussions with the American Association of Community Colleges about developing programmes that will allow for community colleges to offer articulation pathways to UK universities who are on the Federal funding list.

Czech Republic

We continue to see interest from a range of Czech universities looking to form double degree programmes with UK universities, these vary from leading state universities through to private universities.  The laws in the Czech Republic mean that degree programmes delivered in Czech are free or very low cost, however there are no restrictions on the pricing of degree programmes taught in English, and as a result Czech universities are now looking to target non-EU students (particularly from the CIS markets).  We have a few Czech universities looking for partners for this and for the development of joint research projects.

Baltic States

Both the Latvian and Lithuanian governments are actively trying to encourage UK universities to consider them as the base for an EU campus post-BREXIT.  They are also actively supporting the development of joint faculties between state universities and UK universities.  We are working on many of these projects now, including supporting the development of two joint faculties, and the creation of a strategic partnership between a state university and a UK university which would allow the UK institution to open a branch campus within the existing infrastructure.

We have also been asked to support in the development of a major new project to create an IT education centre in one of the Baltic States. This has government support, but more importantly, the support of several global companies.  The aim is to create a centre capable of hosting 3,000 students.

Lithuania has also announced a very generous funding to encourage international universities to partner with local universities.  Funding of up to 3 million euro is available to Lithuanian universities looking to establish a joint research centre with an international partner.  We already have one client in discussions.


We have been approached by the Ukrainian government to help them understand potential opportunities for encouraging UK universities to engage with universities in Ukraine. I will be meeting with the Ministry in Kiev in mid-February and will report back in the next Newsletter.

Other Markets

We are also in discussions with universities in Italy, Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Bulgaria around their strategies and will report back next month on these markets.

Cormack Consultancy Now working in 55 countries

Current International Trends in the education sector

International Trends in the Education Sector – January 2018

The key trends we have picked up across a number of regions this month are:

 Course Licensing: European universities are looking to license unaccredited course material to either supplement their current provision or launch new English taught degree programmes. This month we have assisted in the licensing of a range of material in areas including:

  • Digital Marketing
  • Energy
  • Law

 Vocational Learning: There is a definite prioritising of vocational education across a number of Central and Eastern European markets.  They are looking for support in a range of areas including teacher training, curriculum development and employer engagement.

 Private Sector and UK Universities: We have had two projects we have been working on this month which has seen the private sector link with UK universities to franchise degree programmes, one in Nursing will have 200 students, and the other in IT will have 150.  We have now been approached by two other organisations to help them find a UK partner.

 Europe targeting non-EU & EU Students

It is clear the many European Universities see BREXIT providing an opportunity for them to increase both domestic and EU student numbers, they are also aware that the current governments attitude to non-EU students means that there is also scope for targeting international students.  We have seen a significant increase in Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese students coming to other parts of Europe, particularly CEE.

Charles Cormack

Some thoughts on the European Education Market in 2018

It is clear that BREXIT is a game changer for UK universities; however it is not clear what the rules of the new game will be.  I think it is prudent to make some assumptions based on the type of exit which looks likely now:

  • We will see a massive drop in EU students coming to study in the UK at undergraduate level (probably over 80%)
  • Student mobility through Erasmus is at risk
  • Research funding is at risk and many universities are already seeing academics being tempted to look at universities within the EU to continue their careers and research

As well as BREXIT changes universities will also face:

  • Shrinking student numbers due to demographic changes
  • Continued pressure on international student recruitment bought about by the government’s policy on international student Visas

Therefore universities are facing a ’perfect storm’ when it comes to the international environment. BREXIT turns the EU, a market of over 400 million people on our doorstep, into an international market rather than the domestic market so many institutions have considered it up until now.  As a result, little serious work has been done over the past twenty years to build real strategic partnerships with European universities or build robust recruitment strategies.

This means that as the market fundamentally changes many UK universities are not in a position to cope with, or take advantage of, that change.  But as in business, market disruption will create opportunities for universities prepared to look at the European market and engage with it imaginatively.

There has been coverage in the press around UK universities looking to open campuses in Europe, and this certainly has considerable merit for a number of institutions, however this type of activity will have considerable financial and political risks.  One way to mitigate the risk which we have seen (and are indeed involved in supporting) is the purchasing of Private Universities in markets that are keen to attract UK universities.  In our view the keenness of government and politicians, both local and national, is absolutely key to this strategy and some of the Central and Eastern European markets are being open in their wish to attract UK universities to locate branch campuses in their markets.

A less risky approach is to look at developing high quality strategic TNE relationships with universities in different parts of Europe. These relationships have to be based not only on a good academic fit, but also on the vision of the partner university for its own growth.  We are seeing that many European universities are looking at how to attract more European students following BREXIT.  An event likely to create a new market of around 100,000 students a year.  The fact that these students would naturally have come to the UK means that a strategic link with a UK university will help them in this battle to attract new students.

These partnerships can also allow UK universities to divert international students from markets that present Tier 4 issues to partner universities in Europe. Thus helping both the local university in developing international student numbers while at the same time allowing the UK university to benefit financially from involvement in the education of these students.

Further by-products are likely to include the potential to remain involved in EU funded research projects; as well as institutions that UK universities can develop non-Erasmus reliant mobility relationships with.

However, what is clear to us is that attitudes are changing quickly on all sides. In the UK, universities are becoming a little less arrogant in the way they interact with potential European partners as they understand BREXIT brings a subtle shift to the dynamics of the relationship and European universities understand this shift and many are actively looking at taking advantage of it by forming potentially profitable relationships with UK partners.

News from our markets

News from our markets

The advantage of having local staff on the ground in around 30 markets round the globe is that we can pick up some useful information on how the education market is developing, and how we can support UK clients in getting involved in projects which will support that strategic direction.

Below are some nuggets we picked up over the last few weeks.


The Portuguese government is encouraging all universities to internationalise, and whilst speaking to a number of university senior managers over the past few weeks we have picked up that there has been a significant increase in student numbers from Brazil coming to Portugal to study, and whilst most coming for undergraduate programmes want to study in Portuguese those coming for Masters are increasingly looking for courses taught in English.  This means that universities are keen to develop double degree programmes with UK universities; these are 2 year Masters, with one year delivered by the UK university in the UK.  We already have three under development, and we think this route offers UK universities the chance to tap into the potentially lucrative growth in Brazilian students coming to Europe to study.

Czech Republic

We have seen a big rise in interest from a range of Czech universities looking to form double degree programmes with UK universities, these vary from leading state universities through to private universities.  The laws in the Czech Republic mean that degree programmes delivered in Czech are free or very low cost, however there are no restrictions on the pricing of degree programmes taught in English and as a result Czech Universities are now looking to target non-EU students (particularly from the CIS markets).  We have a number of Czech Universities looking for partners for this, and also for the development of joint research projects.


Most UK universities have seen a rise in the number of US students coming to study in the UK over the past couple of years.  We have developed an innovative model where we license 2 years of undergraduate course material to US community colleges (from the OU unaccredited) and partner the community college with a specific UK university who takes the students into third year.  We already have five UK universities taking part in this initiative and we think it could be a good way for UK universities to break into what has always been a difficult market.

We are also supporting a number of universities, colleges and Accrediting Bodies who are looking to exploit the opportunities created by the opening up of the apprenticeship market in the USA.  We believe this will continue to be a major opportunity for UK education providers as local organisations look to quickly develop provision.

Baltic States

Both the Latvian and Lithuanian governments are actively trying to encourage UK universities to consider them as the base for an EU campus post BREXIT.  They are also actively supporting the development of joint faculties between state universities and UK universities.  We are working on a number of these projects at the moment, including supporting the development of two joint faculties and the creation of a strategic partnership between a state University and a UK university which would allow the UK institution to open a branch campus within the existing infrastructure.


In addition there is an initiative to support the development of vocational teaching which will see the commissioning of some substantial teacher training projects over the next 12 months.


Cormack Consultancy - working with us

Opportunities Update- Education

Education Opportunity Update

Welcome to our September opportunities update, we are aware that many of you will be very busy with the start of term, but wanted to let you know about some of the current international opportunities we are seeing for both universities and colleges.  These are in no particular order and cover opportunities across a range of markets including the USA, Brazil, CIS, Baltic States, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Romania and the Ukraine.

If you would like further information please email and we can arrange a call to brief you further.

 BREXIT Mitigation

We are working with a number of universities and colleges to help develop strategies to mitigate the potential effects of BREXIT.  We have developed a number of innovative ideas and would be happy to share our thoughts with others.

US Apprenticeships

On 15th June 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that has dramatically accelerated the roll out of apprenticeships in the USA.  We are already supporting a number of UK universities and accrediting bodies in exploring this market and we believe there will be significant opportunities for more UK universities, colleges and accrediting bodies.

European Nursing School
We are supporting a significant Central European private health provider, who is looking to find a UK university partner to develop and deliver a UK Nursing Undergraduate Programme in-country, this is a major long-term project.

Universities for Sale
We are aware of a number of European private universities, with full local accreditation, who are interested in attracting a UK university as a strategic investor/partner.  We believe this type of relationship could offer UK universities significant opportunities as the full impact of BREXIT is felt.

IT Courses
We are working with a major CEE IT training provider, that currently delivers high level training to around 1000 students a year.  They are looking for a UK university partner who would be able to offer Undergraduate and Masters Programmes to students in IT, Web Design, Data Science and Digital Marketing.

Course Licencing
We have demand from a number of universities, including German universities, that are looking to licence UK university degree programmes content (unaccredited) in a range of subject areas.

English Language Training
We are aware of a number of opportunities across a range of countries including Brazil, Portugal and Romania for the provision of English Language training for students (preparing to study in English), teachers and lecturers and the private sector (Trade associations etc.).

Programme for School Improvement
We have been asked by a CEE Ministry to find organisations in the UK who might be interested in consulting on the development of a School Improvement Programme focusing on supporting the 200 weakest high schools.

Teacher Training
We have another significant opportunity for a UK university or FE college to work in partnership with a university in CEE to develop a new faculty in teacher training focused on primary and secondary school teachers.  This project has support from the local Ministry of Education.

Dual Degree Programmes
We have a number of European universities looking for UK partners for the development of Dual Degree Programmes across a wide range of subject areas.  These universities want to work in partnership with their UK partners to market these degree programmes to international (non EU students).  We believe this could offer a significant opportunity for the UK university to grow their international student numbers through the delivery of Dual Degree Programmes in markets that are more attractive to international students.


Charles Cormack

How can UK universities mitigate the effects of Brexit?

How can UK universities mitigate the effects of Brexit?

UK universities have led the world for many years in the provision and delivery of higher education to international students. There are currently around 310,000 international (non-EU) students, and 127,000 EU students studying in UK, generating approximately £25 billion for the UK economy.

Providing education to international students is extremely important to British universities and has historically been particularly lucrative, the ability to attract and retain top talent from around the world also enhances universities ability to attract funding for innovative research, and contributions to enriching the university experience for all students.

A British degree is still amongst the most highly regarded globally. However, the government is under political pressure regarding migration to the UK, and has pledged to act to reduce numbers. Unfortunately, this has dramatically decreased the number of international (non-EU) students particularly from India, Pakistan and parts of Africa.

The slowdown in the world economy has also hit the UK market as students from outside the EU have begun to look at other markets such as Australia and Holland, to find high quality higher education taught in English. To address this, UK universities have started to establish campuses abroad, i.e. in China, Malaysia and Singapore, and have established dual and joint degree programmes in Asia and Africa.

Looking abroad

The Brexit vote has put extra stress on the viability of some institutions with around 700 job losses since. It is forecast that Brexit will lead to a drop of around 80% in the number of EU students coming to study in the UK, and threatens student mobility through Erasmus programmes and research funding through Horizon 20:20.

It is now more important than ever that UK Universities look at the EU as an international market. So how should universities approach this change?

They have a number of options.

Stopping International Work

A small number of regional universities may consider stopping international activity altogether. However, in a more global world, young people do not want to attend an insular institution.

Establishing a Branch Campus

Some institutions are looking at the possibility of establishing a physical presence in Europe and purchasing relevant local licences which will allow them to teach and deliver degrees, and access research funding. This sounds like a daunting prospect, but in fact buying a private university is not as expensive as you may think.

Create Dual Degree Programmes (Deep Partnership)

This may be the best solution for most universities. For both under and post-graduate courses, UK and EU universities can form close partnerships to deliver their degrees in the partners country. The UK university would be able to support the recruitment of international students from countries where visa regulations would make coming to the UK an issue, also the likely price differential will potentially open new markets with a dual branding and marketing opportunity. Higher education has always benefited from international student populations and Brexit is forecast to affect these populations badly. The possibilities outlined above could allow UK universities to continue their involvement in international education, as well as allowing local partner universities to increase international student numbers.

If you would like to discuss this further please contact Charles by email at

Charles Cormack

Brexit implications


Since Article 50 was finally triggered, the only certainty appears to be uncertainty in the road ahead, particularly over the next number of months of negotiations. I must admit that while I am still disappointed at the decision and the potentially lost opportunities in Europe, the uncertainty is a little exciting and has my entrepreneurial juices flowing again.

To those of you who don’t know CCG, we have been helping UK companies and educational institutions work in the EU for the past 17 years. We are certainly going to be at the business end of events as they unfold and the nature of our work means that we will be in a unique position to shed light on happenings within the world of business and education as the negotiations progress.

To that end, we wanted to create a place where we could share our experiences and findings as the Brexit deal begins to take shape, as well as sharing some of the strategies that our clients are developing to cope with the changes. We also hope to highlight some of the initiatives that other European countries are developing as they seek to encourage UK companies to relocate.

I hope you find what follows interesting and useful, and perhaps even entertaining! Any comments or suggestions on things we have shared or things you would like us to cover are most welcome.

Our story

To begin, I thought it might be useful for me to briefly outline our story as a business and how we have sought to manage the business post-Brexit, including highlighting some of the issues and opportunities we are already seeing. Don’t worry this series of blogs will not be focusing on our business, but for those who have never heard of CCG, it might be useful to understand a little about our experience and why we feel qualified to comment.

Humble Beginnings

I started the business back in 2000 after the dot-com bubble burst. I wanted to create a business which could help UK companies engage in the Central and Eastern European markets which were due to join the EU in 2004.  We set up offices across the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) and began to service clients from the UK who wanted to sell there, or to have products made or developed in these markets.

For the first seven years, we only worked in the Baltic States, and built a successful but small niche consultancy employing about 12 people.  Clients varied from big blue-chip organisations through to very early stage companies, and spanned almost every business sector.

Then in 2007, the world economy imploded and the Baltic States were the worst hit markets in Europe, with GDP dropping by over 20%.  We believed in them, so did not leave, but instead looked at other markets to work in, and opened offices in Russia, Italy and Romania.  The new markets allowed us to go back to existing clients who we had helped, and offer them opportunities in new markets. This also helped us to increase our offering to UK companies and grow our client base.

We also decided to focus efforts on developing services which we had been successfully delivering for UK universities, helping them to win profitable international work, as universities tend to be less effected by economic conditions than businesses.  This quick reaction saved the business and allowed us to grow.

In 2013, we won a major award from SCDI (presented by Madeline Albright – a huge hero of mine) for the work we did, helping smaller companies internationalise, and all seemed well with the world.  We had opened another couple of offices across Europe, and had formed a strategic partnership with a Portuguese business development consultancy called Market Access, which gave us great people who are just as committed to customer service as we are. This allowed us to support companies right across the globe.

Brexit Blues and Taking a Gamble

Then the 23rd June came. I could not believe the result. Over the next month things got really bad, our order book disappeared as companies put projects on hold or cancelled them altogether. Cash flow tightened, and the majority of our staff were based out in the Baltic States and Romania, where it was clear that we were not be going to be delivering the volume of work we had been.  It became clear that we had to act fast.

First, we needed new markets, so we gambled and opened an office in Chicago in the US. We knew UK companies would be looking there, and as luck would have it  a colleague whom I have worked with for over 20 years,  and is from Chicago became available to head up the office.  We also decided to formalise our partnership with Market Access, integrating their team with our client management team in the UK and allowing us to rapidly grow our reach into South America, Asia, Africa and Western Europe.

This meant that we needed to rationalise costs, so we took our own advice and formed a partnership with a major consultancy based in Central and Eastern Europe called CIVITTA where they integrated our team into theirs. This allowed us to retain the experience of our staff, safeguard their jobs and increase the scope of what we could offer clients in the region, a real win-win situation.

We also realised that the education sector was really struggling to cope with the uncertainties of Brexit, so have been listening to their needs and working with them to develop strategies to navigate this new chapter.

 Cautious Optimism for the Road Ahead?

As the saying goes, in the midst of difficulty lies opportunity, and I am certain that Brexit is no different. We have helped our highly entrepreneurial clients to navigate challenging financial and political climates in the past, by helping develop strong internationalisation strategies. Fortune favours the bold and I am optimistic about our future, and the futures of our clients.

International Business Market Consultancy


Portugal is making a concerted effort to develop its international student recruitment activity, this effort is supported by both national and regional government and is being embraced by the universities and polytechnics.  As part of this strategy they are looking to increase the number of post graduate and undergraduate courses that they teach in English.  Charles spent a very enjoyable week in Portugal a couple of weeks ago meeting with 12 different universities, covering the traditional (Porto/Lisbon), the new universities (founded in the 1970’s), polytechnics (very impressive technical universities teaching undergrad and masters) and private universities.  Discussions focussed on their plans for developing international activity and they are all keen to work with UK universities on the development of dual degree programmes, joint research, student movement (post BREXIT) and the development of their international recruitment activity.  We already have several UK universities in discussions with Portuguese institutions around forming strategic partnerships and we believe there is scope for a number more to make Portugal a post-BREXIT partner hub.

Charles Cormack Market Access Our Markets

Market Access

We continue to run our market access service for universities and colleges, where we focus on a selected market or markets and look at developing a range of activities including short course and CPD development delivery, summer schools, consultancy, course licencing, franchise degree and dual and joint degree partnerships.  We are currently running projects in Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Portugal, Spain, Germany, several CIS markets, Brazil and North America.