Strong schools, colleges and universities are essential not just for individuals, but to our economy and society. Anything this important needs careful handling, however. With long experience in acting for schools, universities and other education providers, that’s exactly what we offer.

With some of the world’s most respected institutions among our clients, Withers lawyers are well versed in the regulations and procedures that govern the education sector. We understand that in order to achieve academic excellence, your institution must also have good funding, contracts, staff, governance and safeguarding.

Financial arrangements are a particular strength, from buying and selling schools to tax-efficient domestic and international fundraising. As a full-service firm, we also regularly advise on intellectual property, employment law, real estate, immigration, tax, contracts and charitable status. Different kinds of institution will have different needs, but the one constant in our offering is the top-level service we provide. Our team responds quickly and effectively, providing reassurance and getting good results.

As a full service firm, we also advise on ancillary matters such as contracts, construction, immigration, legacies, disputes with students, employment issues and reputation management – anything that may affect the running of your institution. Whatever the matter at hand, we offer sophisticated advice and a gold-standard service.

Independent schools

As an independent school, your priority is to provide an excellent education. But there are other matters to consider, such as how to raise and manage funds; establish effective governance and safeguarding; put in place an effective team; and handle the myriad administrative issues that arise each day.

Our responsive team are on hand to advise, calling on a great depth of experience. We act for some of the world’s best-known schools (such as Westminster School) and the organizations that run them (such as the Girls’ Day School Trust, the UK’s largest provider of independent education). We also advise proprietors and investors operating preparatory schools.

Reputation and prestige are key, and we are expert at handling difficult situations discreetly, if necessary working alongside our dedicated reputation management team.

UK academies

Since advising the very first school that converted to an academy in 2003, we have made supporting academies a special focus. Our experience includes complex and sometimes groundbreaking restructurings and we are well equipped to advise on commercial arrangements, governance, employment issues and property.

For established academies, we are on hand to advise on the full range of operational issues, from hiring staff to excluding students and even the threat of closure and special measures. We have also created and advised significant multi-academy trusts.

Higher education institutions

We have particular expertise in advising HEIs on international programmes, including Study Abroad. We support the Association of American Study Abroad Programmes with legal content and help our clients in this area with tax and regulatory advice as well as governance, employment, real estate, immigration and risk management support.

International fundraising

Withers also acts for many schools and universities in relation to international fundraising. We advise on tax-efficient cross border giving, including to help you scope out a plan for expanding your alumni fundraising tax-efficiently on a global basis.

We pioneered the US-UK dual-qualified charitable structure and are the only firm able to handle all aspects of that structure in-house. We have a deep understanding of university development and alumni affairs and work closely with General Counsel and development professionals alike.

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Withers really understands the advisory needs of donor advised funds, and particularly US and UK qualified ones. Alana is an invaluable resource for us as we deal with complex questions of strategy, tax and fiduciary responsibility. I particularly appreciate how responsive she is on urgent work – she’s always there to provide answers that cut through the complexity.

National Philanthropic Trust

Strong team – always available. Play a long game but play to win, certain team members are extremely impressive.

Legal 500, 2021

Meet the team

Track record

Syracuse University

We advised Syracuse University (USA) on its London Program which involved the acquisition of premises for use for educational purposes; employment advice in relation to urgent dismissal for gross misconduct; governance arrangements, including appointment of an interim director and new trustees; conflicts of interest in connection with the Programme's relationship with the University; advice and assistance in relation to sub-licenses for occupation of premises by other educational organisations, including in relation to real estate matters and tax treatment of revenues. The work represents a mature study abroad programme operating in the UK and in Europe, raising a variety of operational issues.

Owner and operator of international schools

We advised an organization which owns and operates international schools around the world, in their acquisition of a stand-alone international school in Singapore. The founder of the company is an Indian entrepreneur and Singapore PR, who started this business in India, and has since expanded it to various countries in Asia.

University College London Hospitals

Advised University College London Hospitals in relation to a significant property development involving a development company and subsidiary companies and participated in a negotiation for relevant regulatory approvals as well as the establishment in 2013 of the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health

International school in Singapore

We acted for a bank in the financing to an international school in Singapore for the construction of an additional building to its existing campus.

University sponsor licence

Assisted a leading American university renew its sponsor licence in order to enable the continued sponsorship of study abroad programs in the UK.

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