Online and distance learning dominates at private university group Stadio

 ·15 Mar 2023

Private tertiary education provider Stadio Higher Education reported an 8% jump in enrolments to 41,296 students for the period that ended December 2022, with distance learning, in particular, being more popular.

In its full-year financial results posted on 15 March, the group noted increased semester-one student enrolments of 11% to 38,348 students as of 30 June 2022 (June 2021: 34,494).

This saw a further increase in semester two, with student enrolments increasing by 8% to 41,296 (December 2021: 38,262) as of 31 December 2022.

Over the same period, distance learning student numbers reflected notable growth of 14% to 32,686 in semester one (June 2021: 28,573) and 10% to 35,597 in semester two (December 2021: 32,320).

In contrast, contact learning student numbers declined by 4% to 5,662 in semester one (June 2021: 5,921) and by 4% to 5,699 in semester two (December 2021: 5,942).

Stadio Holdings was spun out of Curro in 2017 and owns three higher education institutions – Stadio, Milpark and AFDA – offering a diverse range of programmes, including undergraduate and post-graduate programmes.

The decline in contact-learning students is in part due to Milpark Education transitioning away from offering contact-learning programmes to becoming a preferred provider in online distance learning education, the Group said.

Stadio added that Covid-19 also negatively impacted new student intakes during 2021, which resulted in fewer students rolling over into 2022, adversely affecting contact learning students in the current year.

Core headline earnings increased by 18% from R149 million to R176 million, with core headline earnings per share growing by another 18% from 17.6 cents to 20.7 cents, it said. Revenue increased by 11% from R1.098 billion to R1.214 billion.

Core headline earnings reflect headline earnings adjusted for certain items that may distort the financial results from year-to-year, giving shareholders a more consistent reflection of the underlying financial performance of the group.

Earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 13% from R309 million to R351 million due to good growth in student numbers for the period, coupled with controlled cost management, Stadio said.

The group also declared a dividend increase of 89% from 4.7 cents per share to 8.9 cents per share over the period.

Stadio currently offers 86 qualifications and noted another 31 programmes in the pipeline – including new qualifications in information technology, education, law, commerce and architecture.

It noted that phase two of the Stadio Centurion campus was completed at the end of June 2022, and the campus is now fully operational.

Stadio has also expanded its distance learning operations centre in Krugersdorp, which will allow Stadio Higher Education to scale its distance learning offerings, it said.

Stadio chief executive Chris Vorster said that the group is cognisant of the negative impact that load shedding, coupled with the after-effects of Covid-19, has on the economy and, more specifically, on the ability of cash-strained consumers to afford higher education offerings.

However, there continues to be a high demand for quality higher education in South Africa, and the group continues to strategically position itself by focussing on optimising systems and processes, improving customer service and strengthening its links with the world of work to meet this growing demand, he added.

Vorster also noted that it has invested in generators and other backup power solutions to enable the group to continue its operations with minimal disruption.

“Management is actively investigating solar energy solutions, to not only alleviate the burdens of load shedding but also to progress the group’s commitment to greener campuses,” he said.

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