17/09/2009 - 00:00

Murdoch link to US powerhouse

17/09/2009 - 00:00


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A MOVE by The Washington Post Company to expand its operations in Perth might at first glance unsettle the state's media powerbrokers.

A MOVE by The Washington Post Company to expand its operations in Perth might at first glance unsettle the state's media powerbrokers.

Yet the historical American company, named after its flagship newspaper, poses no threat to the likes of Kerry Stokes.

Its interests are in education.

The Washington Post Company-owned Kaplan has taken over the bridging courses that funnel international students into Murdoch University.

So-called pathways programs are a lucrative business - as universities have come to rely on international student fees - and thus far Perth-based Navitas has largely dominated the sector.

The basic business model is for international students to attend colleges, run by groups like Navitas and Kaplan, offering English language tuition and transition courses in preparation for the students to begin a degree with a partner university.

The full-fee paying students, who pay upwards of $20,000 a year for tuition, can generate up to 25 per cent of a university's revenue. On rare occasions this figure can surpass 50 per cent.

The Washington Post Company bought Kaplan in 1984 for $US45 million, thereby transforming the company into a media and education business. The company description has since been flipped - it is now known as an education and media business - as Kaplan has become the fastest growing division and its largest revenue producer.

Founder Stanley Kaplan died late last month, aged 90.

A Kaplan spokeswoman said the company was now branching into the university area in Australia after having focused on professional services training.

"We've been on a bit of a growth spurt in Australia," she said.

Kaplan also has a relationship with the University of Adelaide, offering pre-university pathway programs for international students entering undergraduate courses.

Kaplan's tie-up with Murdoch came through its purchase of the Murdoch Institute of Technology from the Alexander Education Group.

Kaplan became a major player in the financial services education sector through the purchases of Tribeca in 2006 and the Financial Services Institute of Australia in 2007.

Its major competitor and market leader, Navitas, generates the vast bulk of its income through university programs, followed by English language courses. It also has a small division focused on workforce training.

Navitas head Rod Jones previously told WA Business News that it would be difficult for rivals to establish the ties it already had.

"Universities are a bit like a club; if you do it well with one they'll have confidence in dealing with you," he said.

"For others to get into the game, they've got to be able to develop those relationships. That's not simple."



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