Private higher education group Stadio aims to double its number of students by 2026 as it plans to add more academic programmes to its portfolio.  

The group wants to grow student numbers by at least 9% to reach a target of 56,000 by 2026. .

The company aspires to offer more undergraduate bachelor’s degrees, higher certificates and diplomas as well as post graduate qualifications such as honours, masters and doctorate degrees.

Led by CEO Chris van der Merwe, Stadio is eyeing new developments in the Western Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with the new facilities set to be opened in 2021 and 2022.

Stadio, the owner of private higher education brands such as Milpark Education, Embury Institute for Higher Education, Prestige Academy and AFDA, said its focus was to develop multi-faculty large-scale campuses. It said it wanted to offer the programmes under a single brand, Stadio Multiversity, saying there were marketing, operational and regulatory advantages for such a move.

In the six months ended June 30, Stadio increased student numbers by 10% to 28,280, from the previous 25,789.

In line with its growth aspirations, Stadio said it was pursuing the acquisition of land and a semi-complete structure in Centurion. And the group said it has entered into an agreement to acquire vacant land in Durbanville. “We expect the first large-scale campus to open in Centurion in 2021, with the Durbanville campus opening in 2022.”

The company said its various private education brands could be consolidated under the single Stadio Multiversity brand in the course of 2020.

Given the group’s expansion plan, it said it will not pay an interim dividend.

“The group continues on its journey to establish and migrate all brands to one Stadio Multiversity, which will reap efficiencies in the long term but could result in additional costs in the short to medium term,” it said.

Despite the tough domestic economy, “the group is well positioned to deliver on its organic and acquisitive growth objectives for the 2019 financial year”.

Stadio said net profit jumped 47% to R52.2m in the six months to end-June, partly thanks to the acquisition of another higher-education institution. The group bought Prestige Academy, which has campuses in the Western Cape and Gauteng, in November 2018. That helped lift revenues 38% to R408.9m in the first half of 2019.

The better financial performance “is attributable to the organic growth of the underlying institutions, the inclusion of Prestige Academy’s results ... as well as the better overall financial performance of Milpark”, Stadio said.

The company said it had “a strong cash position”, with a cash balance of R349m at the end of June. It would use some of that cash to fund new developments — including greenfield projects — and for potential acquisitions.