Could your next career move take you to China?

Why you should consider China for your next role

By Aaron Ashton, Head of International Appointments

Over the last 18 months, RSAcademics has run numerous searches for leadership vacancies across China. It is a fascinating market that we know well.

There are some well-documented challenges when leading a school in China, which we summarised in our 2018 RSAcademics white paper Leading an International School in China.  However, there are also significant attractions of China as a location.  It is one of the most dynamic education markets and offers great professional satisfaction for those who can lead a school which successfully blends Chinese and western pedagogical and cultural approaches.

As a school leadership appointment company, we have observed a two-speed market developing:

  1. Those candidates with successful leadership experience in China are highly sought-after
  2. Whereas candidates with no experience of China report that they are finding it increasingly difficult to convince panels that they are credible contenders for these top jobs.

However, if you do not have experience in China, that will not necessarily rule you out; in our view, to be successful, you need to demonstrate a level of cultural curiosity and adaptability, a resilience and a determination to succeed in a cultural context where ambiguity needs to be embraced and difference celebrated.

The growth in the China market shows no signs of slowing. As of July 2018, there were 850 English-medium international or bilingual schools in the country (8.8% of the global total). Notably, almost one third of these schools are defined as ‘premium’ international schools, making China the fastest growing provider of premium international schools anywhere. This growth, which is centred on bilingual schools for Chinese children, is fuelled by an increasingly wealthy population and a cultural respect for education that leads families to spend a far higher proportion of household income on education than in most other economies.

Against this backdrop of strong growth, it is easy to see why China has become a magnet for new international schools, including those formed through partnerships with British schools.  The local backers of these schools are willing to invest in securing the best leadership talent to give their school the edge; school leaders in China are amongst the best paid educators in the world. Chinese schools and school groups are ambitious, increasingly world-class and often at the centre of educational innovation.

There are many elements to leading a school in China that may not be familiar to candidates new to the region. As a team, we have spent considerable time in China working with our clients and we would be happy to share our experiences. We are actively recruiting to two roles at the moment, one in Hangzhou and another in Shanghai, and have more to announce shortly. If you would like to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact:

Jean Sullivan, Head of International Search:

Aaron Ashton, Head of International Leadership Appointments:


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“RSAcademics were very supportive and responsive throughout the selection process - communication was excellent and the comments and feedback on candidates was informative, accurate and very helpful.”

Roger SchultzHead of School, Alice Smith School