Mauritius: knowledge hub
There are numerous questions to ask if you are considering investing in Mauritius; a critical lure for families is the good state of education
In 2012, Mauritius opened its doors to qualifying foreigners who want to invest in residential property and live in the country, too. By ring-fencing specific Integrated Resort Scheme (now known as Property Development Scheme or PDS) developments for foreign investment, a $500,000 real estate purchase gives the buyer and his or her immediate family Mauritian permanent residency. The move provided the economic injection Mauritius sought, and a highly attractive lifestyle for those wanting a stable, secure, beautiful country to call their own.
For South Africans, Mauritius is a mere four-hour flight away, ideal for those who commute to their South African business interests. The country also has low inflation, tax rates, crime and unemployment, a stable political environment, free exchange controls and a low level of government regulation in the business sector. In short, it has almost everything SA does not.
Since Mauritian independence from the UK in 1968, the country has undergone a significant transformation as the economy has evolved from a low-income agricultural to a middle-income country based on tourism, textiles, sugar and financial services.
Today, that economy has diversified to include a wide range of sectors, including property development, education and training. With the political will, it looks set to continue the upward trajectory. Mauritius is consistently rated the best-run country in the Indian Ocean region, ranked first in Africa in the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business Report and 32 on the global list.
There has been a focused, collaborative and highly successful drive by the government to raise the bar on Mauritius.
The accompanying economic growth has affected all sectors, education being a priority. It is not only around bigger, better schooling opportunities for Mauritians but about positioning the country as an attractive educational proposition for students globally. Education has become a cornerstone of the Mauritian vision.The regulatory body for tertiary education, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), is both watchdog and facilitator, from accreditation of international-brand senior schools and tertiary institutions to ensuring superior standards.
The TEC’s stated intention is to “position Mauritius in the region as a world-class knowledge hub and the gateway for postsecondary education”. Over the past decade, Knight Frank’s The Wealth Report has provided a unique perspective on the interaction between wealth and the world’s prime property markets. A 2015 prediction pointed to the rise of education as a driver for global property investment. Its survey results have been borne out by the facts. For example, 42% of Chinese ultra-high-net-worth individuals were planning to send their children overseas for secondary education..
“Compared to the previous five years, the change in the past five or six has been exponential, particularly with regard to secondary school and tertiary education”
Mauritius VS RSA
Timo Geldenhuys, a South African with young children and a director at Sotheby’s International Realty in Mauritius, has lived in the country for 11 years.non.In his early days there, South African expatriates with the means sent their children back to boarding school in SA. He believes perceptions have changed drastically and there is a strong sense that the secondary education offered in Mauritius is superior to that in SA. One of the pillars of secondary education has to be how many doors open when a student is brandishing their final-year results. Those schooled in Mauritius are “cruising into any universities they choose, in the country they choose”, Geldenhuys says.
What is on offer
The current, somewhat fluid, South African political environment and its effect on tertiary education is increasingly proving to be off-putting. South African tertiary institutions are losing their gloss. Says Geldenhuys: “It’s far more expensive to send children to study in the UK and Australia than SA, but parents are making that decision anyway. They’re preparing themselves far sooner for the massive bills on the horizon.” In Mauritius, school education, from primary to senior, is either public or private, English, French or dual medium. There are a number of highly rated private schools which follow internationally recognised curricula (British and international GCSE — A and O levels — and/or the International Baccalaureate).
Among others, notable schools are the International Preparatory School and Northfields High School in the north; Westcoast International Primary School at Black River; and French private schools such as L’Ecole du Nord in the north and Lycée des Mascareignes in the centre, as well as Paul & Virginie in the west. Traditionally, Australia is perceived as the Mauritian destination of choice for tertiary education, but the figures do not bear this out. The UK topped the list with 2,515 students (24.8%), followed by Australia 1,879 (18.5%), France/La Réunion 1,756 (17.3%), India 1,308 (12.9%) and China 1,108 (11.6%).
Compared to 2013, the flow of students pursuing higher studies in Australia decreased from 20.8% to 18.5% in 2014. Increasingly, fewer Mauritians are travelling abroad to study. They no longer need to, as the universities are coming to them. The expat figures seem to be fluctuating, however, and it remains to be seen whether the new universities will offer courses more attractive to them. What about education? This is the most common question Geldenhuys receives from those considering a move to Mauritius. “It’s become part of the investment paradigm. Buyers may have children of [school-going] age — and when they sell, the [next] buyer could be someone with school- or university-age children,” he says.
“A 2015 prediction pointed to the rise of education as a driver for global property investment”
- The first Integrated Resort Scheme, which launched in 2006, gave foreigners the opportunity to buy property in Mauritius. Over a 10-year period, there has been capital growth of more than 300%.
- The number of US dollar millionaires living in Mauritius has increased by 340% since 2000 to reach 3,200 in 2015.
Source: Pam Golding Property Group/ New World Wealth
The Board of Investment (BOI) Mauritius is the national investment promotion agency of the Mauritian government, with the mandate to promote and facilitate investment in the country. According to the BOI, the number of international students choosing to pursue higher education studies in Mauritius shows an upward trend, with students from more than 70 countries enrolled there. These include India (30%), Nigeria (11%), SA (10%) and France (6%). The Passport and Immigration Office details the evolution in the enrolment of international students increasing from 528 students in 2007 to 2,900 in 2015. Tertiary education in Mauritius is not considered in isolation but as an integral part of the bigger picture. Mauritius is building smart cities (www.investmauritius.com/investment-opportunities/smart-cities).
A number of international brands are establishing satellite campuses or a footprint in Mauritius. Students then have the advantage of internationally accredited faculties, lecturers and qualifications. There are also opportunities for international student exchange between campuses. Medine Education Village is a perfect example. The Medine Group launched its Education Village project at Talents in Pierrefonds in 2012. In the first phase, it constructed a 60-seater amphitheatre. In the second, 35ha of land is set to be developed in Cascavelles, comprising an academic zone, student accommodation facilities and sports and leisure amenities. International institutions such as ESSEC Business School, ESCP Europe, SUPINFO and Université Sorbonne Assas are already delivering their programmes in the Talents amphitheatre.
Furthermore, the Medine Group is currently focusing on the development of the Medine Smart City project that will span 202ha. This project will include commercial facilities, business parks, a medical hub, sports hub, education (pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary), student housing and residential facilities.
Middlesex University Mauritius is an integral part of Britain’s Middlesex University, subject to the same rigorous quality assurance procedures and standards and which recently earned the highest possible endorsement from the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. In 2010, Middlesex opened in Mauritius (its second international campus). Some six years later, a joint venture between Middlesex and the Medine Group resulted in the construction of a state-of-the-art campus within Medine Smart City, due to be completed by September 2017. The new campus master plan is envisaged to benefit residents and students, aligned with the country’s Smart City philosophy. “We are creating the island’s first integrated and international campus on the west coast of Mauritius, which will be within a city in the making,” says Thierry Sauzier, deputy CEO of Medine Group.
The UK’s Aberystwyth University recently set up a branch campus in Mauritius on 47,055m2 of land in Quartier-Militaire. The campus will comprise various academic blocks, science and architecture laboratories, a gymnasium, an auditorium, an administrative block, accommodation facilities and various sports facilities. Phase one of the three-part project has been completed and can accommodate up to 500 students. The institution is already operational and delivers undergraduate and postgraduate courses awarded by Aberystwyth University in Wales.
African Leadership College has set up a private tertiary educational institution in Beau-Plan Business Park along with Glasgow Caledonian University to offer undergraduate programmes to students. The institution has already attracted 180 international students from more than 30 African countries. In collaboration with Terra Group, the college is planning to construct a residential campus on 50ha of land in Pamplemousses.
Student accommodation in Mauritius is plentiful, either on campus or, in the case of Student Life Residences — developed by the Medine Group in September last year — customised student accommodation. Says the BOI: “The government of Mauritius is presently developing three university campuses (Reduit, Pamplemousses and Montagne-Blanche), which will accommodate polytechnic institutes in different fields such as information and communications technology, hotel management, tourism and healthcare services.
This project is in line with the government’s vision to transform Mauritius into a knowledge hub by expanding access to quality higher education through the creation of state-of-the-art infrastructure across the country.” Construction of these three university campuses is nearly complete. Mauritius as a knowledge hub is fast gaining traction. Students of the international-brand universities are acquiring a world-class education at less than it would cost if they attended the same university in its place of origin. And the opportunities for student exchange are not pipe dreams. They are happening — and that opportunity for travel and global interaction is a drawcard.
“A number of international brands are establishing satellite campuses or a footprint in Mauritius”
The Property Development Scheme (PDS) provides the unique opportunity for non-residents in Mauritius to acquire freehold residential property at a minimum price of $500,000. This entitles the buyer and his or her immediate family to a residence permit.
The PDS replaced the Integrated Resort Scheme and Real Estate Scheme from 2014. This scheme allows for the development of a mix of residences for sale to citizens, noncitizens and members of the Mauritian diaspora.
Credits: Photo: Keshawve Jeewon, iStock and Supplied, Text: Anne Shauffer