A growing portion of international schools are franchised branches of schools originally founded in other countries. The first of such schools opened in 1996 and there are now almost 100 globally. Expansionist schools are primarily elite, English private schools, with concentrations of their franchises developing in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and East Asia over the past quarter of a century—particularly in mainland China over the past decade. This study explores how such schools adapt the language and focus of their marketing and, in doing so, sustain their privilege across various contexts. A qualitative textual analysis is conducted of the websites of 11 schools run by Dulwich College and Harrow School, the first brands to expand overseas and with the most extensive networks of schools today. A lens of international schools as enclosures of privilege is used to demonstrate how schools adapt themselves and their framing. The study finds the promotional focus of the schools depends not just on whether they are the founding school or a franchise, but also on their relative ages, and on their varying locations within specific sociocultural contexts. An emergent hybrid model, catering to both local and international curricula, blends the local with the global and complicates the conventional notion of the international school. Finally, the study suggests that further research is focused on the franchising of elite education, particularly as the focal point of expansion begins to shift away from the mainland Chinese boom of the past decade.
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Copyright (c) 2023 Stefano Hollis