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Chain school update from Down Under

A couple of new language school chains seem to be emerging from Down Under as Australia’s Elicos gradually recovers from Covid. Browns English Language School, which was sold to tertiary training group Monarch Institute in February this year, has opened a new school in Brisbane as well as a new campus back on the Gold Coast, where it was founded nearly 20 years ago.

Meanwhile, IH Sydney has added a sixth language school, in Adelaide, to its portfolio. It also features schools in Bondi, Darwin, Gold Coast and Byron Bay, bringing the single owner operation, which also boasts a business college, in line in terms of size with a number of International House affiliates in England, even when we count in the IH London Young Learners Summer School operation which, under British Council rules, is separately accredited.

This mix of tertiary training and English language training was pioneered by Holmes Institute, which recently owned a sister institute in Ireland. Holmes Education, a family owned conglomerate, also owns language school chain Oxford House Colleges and international teacher training giant Teaching House. 

So, how has Australia’s largest chain looking post-Covid? To be frank, it’s pretty hard to tell. In the UK, the Oxford English Centre (OEC) is back open and running and, according to its latest British Council accreditation report, trading in its original building. So is the Oxford House College (OHC) central London school but, despite appearing on the OHC website, the schools in Richmond and Stratford upon Avon remain closed, according to OHC staff in Central London, with no clear date when they are expected to reopen. Neither school is listed by the British Council as ‘currently closed’, though OHC Oxford, a separate operation from OEC, was confirmed as permanently closed. 

So, we took a look at the Holmes Institute Pathways. When we first looked at the page on the Holmes Education website, the message ‘Page not found’ appeared. The next day it was there listing four universities, but when we clicked through to the universities’ websites, only one, Bedfordshire, had a page dedicated to the International Pathway which mentioned Holmes Institute. Two others mentioned the pathways but not Holmes Institute, a common university ploy, but the fourth, St Mary’s University, Twickenham, made no mention on its website that we could find of any international pathway at all.

Now, universities being coy about international pathways is nothing new and many large international chains are at sixes and sevens post-Covid, so it’s hard to keep tabs on what is open or closed. But our confusion rose further when we again googled Holmes Institute and came across a website for Holmes Institute Canada, which claimed to be open for business but did not appear on the Holmes Education website nor, indeed, on Google maps.

Unable to figure out what was going on, we emailed the Holmes press office to establish: which of its centres worldwide were currently open, which were currently closed and when they were likely to re-open and, finally, which were permanently closed.

At the time of writing no answer has been received.

Image courtesy of Anna Mustermann from Pixabay
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Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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