The private company taking on South Africa’s biggest universities

Stadio, the JSE-listed investment holdings company with investments in three private higher education institutions, has set its sights on creating an alternative to the University of South Africa, the largest university system in the country, with in excess of 400,000 students.

Larger universities including the likes of Stellenbosch University, UCT, Wits, and North-West University range between 30,000 and 70,000 students.

Stadio started as a subsidiary of Curro Holdings, but was unbundled in 2017, and listed separately on the Johannesburg exchange.

In 2013, Curro acquired Embury, a registered private higher education institution, which offers accredited teacher education qualifications. This was Curro’s first acquisition in the post-school education environment.

It has since acquired further prestigious registered higher education institutions, namely AFDA, Milpark Education, LISOF, Prestige Academy and Southern Business School, as well as the business of CA Connect. AFDA and Milpark Education operate independently, and the other institutions were consolidated with Stadio to form one Stadio Higher Education institution.

In a note on Wednesday (22 June), Stadio chief executive officer, Chris Vorster said the group is set to enter a growth phase with its eye firmly on widening access to quality education. It currently boasts 9 schools, over 50 accredited programmes and both on and off-campus options.

Stadio, with its current three investments in Stadio Higher Education, Milpark Education, and AFDA, has, from 2016 to 2020, focused on establishing and positioning the business.

Vorster said that in 2022, the group is still focused on the consolidation phase of the business and is positioning to implement its growth strategy, aiming for sustainable growth in profit of more than 20% in the long-term, with minimal capital requirements, whilst investigating the possibility of new markets, and further refining its systems and processes to enable continued innovation and efficiencies.

Addressing shareholders in a virtual AGM, Vorster, said that the foundation for this growth phase has been laid and is visible in the first semester with student numbers up by 11% to 38,414  at the end of May 2022 in comparison to 30 June 2021, with distance learning numbers increasing by 15%.

These figures exclude students enrolled in short-learning programmes, Stadio said.

“Of particular significance, is that new students increased by 16% relative to June 2021 with contact learning students growing by 2% to 2,355 and distance learning by 19% to 11,137 students.

“This is a good illustration of our strategy for growth, by taking new programmes to new sites. In general, new student growth provides Stadio with a good pipeline of roll-over students for the next few years,” Vorster said.

Stadio is on track to achieve its target of 56,000 students by 2026, with an 8% annual growth rate required to achieve this. “The ultimate goal is to provide top-class education to 100,000 plus students over time with a minimum of 80% distance learning students and a maximum of 20% contact learning students,” Vorster said.

“Stadio is well-positioned to achieve these goals with its overall strategy underpinned further by its purpose of widening access to education, taking cognizance of the world of work and student centredness,” he said.

The group’s latest campus in Centurion opened its first phase in 2022 at a build cost of R200 million.

Fees vary greatly, depending on the course, type of learning, location, advancement, and year of study.


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The private company taking on South Africa’s biggest universities