Private higher education provider Global University Systems (GUS) has acquired Trebas Institute, an independent music and entertainment college in Canada, amid a crisis that poses an existential threat to many universities’ finances.

The transaction, the value of which was not disclosed, will expand GUS’s roster of Canadian universities, which includes University Canada West, Toronto School of Management and The Language Gallery Canada.

According to its website, Trebas Institute, which has campuses in Montreal and Toronto, offers “high-end” educational programmes in the entertainment industry and claims music “artists themselves” are among its graduates.

The private university was founded in 1979 and was registered under Canada’s Private Career Colleges Act in 2005.

“Our institutions provide a variety of study paths and qualifications and we are always looking to expand to new sectors and locations,” said Cyndi McLeod, GUS Canada chief executive. “With Trebas Institute, not only will we expand our education offer by adding creative disciplines, but we will also establish a presence in Montreal for the first time.”

Founded in 2013, GUS owns more than 20 for-profit universities across the world, including The University of Law and Arden University in the UK. Most of the group's institutions specialise in various fields, such as law, business, management and creative industries. 

The deal closed during a turbulent period in Canada’s higher education sector, which, like that of other countries, was rocked by a pandemic that has caused domestic and international students to reconsider plans amid concerns that in-person instruction and flights may still be banned in September.

Reports estimate that, in Ontario, tuition fees make up between 50% and 60% of most universities’ revenues.

Some Canadian universities, including Laurentian in Sudbury, have forecast deficits equal to at least 10% of their revenues that could prove detrimental to current operations and result in cuts to jobs and budgets.

In April, Jeanna Harrison, vice-president and senior analyst at ratings agency Moody’s, said that “we expect rated universities in… [the] US, Canada, UK, Australia, Singapore, and Mexico to enrol fewer students for the next academic year than planned, due to the outbreak.

“In addition, if campuses remain closed for part of the year, income from residence halls, catering, conferences and sporting events will be lower than budgeted. Endowment and gift income may also decline.”

A survey earlier this year by educational data provider QS found that, of nearly 3,000 students intending to study in Canada, more than half (54%) had planned to defer enrolling for a year, while 15% had changed their plans entirely and would no longer enrol with Canadian universities.

Date published: 26 May 2020

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