OXFORD’S independent schools are seeing a surge in interest from foreign parents looking to obtain the best education for their children.
Headington School has seen applications from countries such as India, China and Russia as well as Europe soar by as much as 50 per cent, despite fees of more than £27,000 a year.
But head teacher Caroline Jordan stressed that while enquiries are rising rapidly, intakes of foreign pupils remain the same with 15 per cent of pupils from other countries, although there were now 30 different nationalities among the 800 girls.
She said: “Interest from India, the US and Europe has increased. British education is seen as the gold standard and it is viewed as a very good thing to send your child here.
“British universities are also seen as the place to go and going to the sixth form gives the best possible opportunity to go on to higher education here too.”
Boarder Anna Herrmann, 18, joined the sixth form at Headington School last September.
Her father Kurt is German, her mother Sharron is English. She was born in Germany and educated in Hong Kong and China in German-speaking schools while Mr Herrman worked as an engineer in those countries.
She said: “I wanted to study law in the UK and carry it on to university and I felt coming to Headington would give me the chance of gaining the grades to do that.”
Nationally, the Independent Schools Council says that the number of overseas pupils at fee-paying schools increased 5.8 per cent this academic year after increasing 5.5 per cent the year before.
Magdalen College School in Oxford has also witnessed a surge in applications from abroad with parents “Googling” top public schools with the best academic results on the internet before sending an e-mail to the admissions department.
Master of Magdalen Tim Hands said: “Oxford has a global reputation for its secondary education and that is now becoming a fundamental part of the economy here.”
With rising numbers of foreign students comes a growing demand for host families.
One of the largest guardian agencies in Britain is Alpha Plus Guardian Services which has its head offices in Oxford.
It was founded by Richard and Jane Youdale when Mr Youdale was headmaster of the King’s School, Ely, after he discovered a young Russian girl was spending half term alone in a London hotel.
He said: “I started the agency in 1999 in Ely but then moved to Oxford in 2004. Since then we have seen the number of students using our services grow in the Oxford area to 60. Across the county we have six offices and have seen the number of children grow to 130.
“Parents abroad particularly want to send their children to Oxford and Oxfordshire because of course the name has a special cachet for education.
“Pupils from Russia and Russian-speaking countries, China, Hong Kong and Thailand are growing in number.”