Strong schools, colleges and universities are essential not just for individuals, but to the wider economy and society. These crucial institutions need legal advisers with deep knowledge and experience, who speak their language and have the resources to assist with the most challenging of situations.

We have acted for schools, colleges and universities for many years. Our clients range from small independent schools with day-to-day legal needs, to major universities, sometimes operating globally and at the cutting edge of the law.

We understand not just the law and regulation that affects those in the education sector, but also the other requirements and expectations to which organisations are subject. These include public and regulatory attitudes to issues like safeguarding and freedom of speech, political and other developments that can present challenges, and associated reputational risks.

We know that those running schools, colleges and universities are under immense pressure given the importance of their work, the great regulatory burden and the potentially severe consequences for individuals and organisations when things go wrong. With the benefit of long experience, we can guide board members and senior staff through the legal web efficiently, pragmatically and without fuss, allowing them to focus on their own work and students.

Given our global presence, we are uniquely placed to advise schools, colleges and universities on their international projects, including setting up schools overseas and advising on international collaboration and funding. And as a full-service law firm, we can help with all your legal needs.

For further help or information

Get in touch

Our areas of focus

Further and higher education institutions

Universities, colleges and other further and higher education institutions are amongst the most innovative, exciting and important contributors to society. We are proud to advise some of the world’s leading further and higher education institutions, and we have a deep understanding of the way they work, and their legal needs.

As a global firm, we have particular expertise in advising on international programmes, and supporting further and higher education institutions on all their legal needs, whether in one or multiple jurisdictions.

International fundraising

We act for many schools, colleges and universities in relation to international fundraising. We advise on tax-efficient cross border giving, including helping 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.

Independent schools in the UK

We have a leading UK independent schools practice, and long experience of working with some of the best-known institutions in the sector. With independent school governors and former teachers in our team, we speak schools’ language and understand the issues you face.

Independent schools are an essential part of school-age education in the UK and are diverse in their character and legal needs. We look to establish long term relationships with our schools clients, so we can really get to know you and provide advice that is tailored, efficient and pragmatic. The legal support that we provide is not commoditised, but bespoke and high quality, while at the same time representing excellent value for money.

UK academies

Since advising the very first school that converted to an academy in 2003, we have worked with academy trusts, their sponsors and associated charities in helping them achieve their ambitions. Academy trusts are now a major part of the educational landscape in the UK, with many of the schools they operate being highly successful, innovative and significant institutions.

International education

At Withers, we are uniquely well placed to advise those involved in education on their international projects. Our education practice is global, with major school, college, university and associated clients in Europe, the USA, Asia and elsewhere.

As a full service law firm with 17 offices spread across the globe, we can assist you with all you global legal needs, whether you are an international organisation or based in one country and looking to expand.

We advise education providers, philanthropists and investors on establishing and operating international schools and further and higher education institutions. By having experience on both sides of the table, rather than acting for just one type of client, we are able to offer a more rounded and insightful approach to legal advice.

Independent Reviews for schools, universities and colleges

As allegations of peer-on-peer abuse, bullying and harassment continue to loom large in the education sector, we know schools, universities and colleges face complex challenges. To address this, institutions are increasingly looking to authoritative, independent reviewers to scrutinise and advise on their arrangements.

Withers has specialists in the key areas needed to conduct these reviews and we are ready and able to assist. For further information please click here or get in touch with Philip Reed.

In more detail...

Supporting independent schools

Find out more about our capabilities, experience and dedicated team supporting independent schools.


Supporting academies

Find out more about our capabilities, experience and dedicated team supporting academies.


Supporting the higher and further education sectors

Find out more about our capabilities, experience and dedicated team supporting the higher and further education sectors.



2021 Legal 500, Leading firm for charities and not-for-profit

2021 Legal 500, M&A: smaller deals, up to £50m (Tier 1)

2021 Ranked in Chambers UK - Charities (Band 2)

Best Law Firms from Best Lawyers 2021

2021 Chambers UK, leading firm for employers

2021 Legal 500 UK, top tier firm in contentious trusts and probate

2021 Chambers UK, leading firm for defamation/reputation management

2021 Legal 500 UK, leading firm in immigration

Finalist for STEP Charity Team of the Year 2021

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.

A regional education provider in Singapore in a cross border arbitration

We advised our client (the Claimant) in a cross border arbitration under the SIAC Rules involving claims of USD $70 million. Our client entered into a funding arrangement with a private equity firm, allowing the funder to acquire shares and/or control in a company which acquires, runs and manages schools, and the arbitration concerned the corporate structure and approach to governance and controls.


Advising a leading Edtech provider in connection with its global SaaS agreements, Chinese trade mark protection program, and worldwide data protection compliance.

SaaS marketplace

Acting for an Edtech tutoring platform in relation to its data protection compliance.

VR, facial recognition, big data, IoT

Advising an Italian Edtech provider in the development of an innovative tech platform for young talents' career development.

Global Schools Holdings Pte. Ltd

Advising the operator of a leading chain of international schools in connection with the roll-out of SMART Campuses, an innovative model designed to ensure that technology (e.g. virtual classrooms, facial recognition, sports data, etc.) is at the core of education.

Owner and operator of the prestigious educational institution

Acting for the owner and operator of the prestigious educational institution with campuses in Singapore, India, Japan, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates, in the worldwide protection of their trade marks and in various trade mark enforcement proceedings in India.

An academy

Advising an academy on successfully securing an injunction and re-inspection where the academy contested the results of its initial OFSTED inspection. This was a ground breaking outcome.

One of the UK's leading philanthropists

We advised him on his education projects, including legal support around the establishment and operation of two academies and a friends of charity.

Multi-academy trust

We advised this multi-academy trust on a merger joining six academies.

Large education grant making charity

We are proud to have advised this charity on protecting £10million of endowment funding for a multi academy trust with over 30 academies.

Two community schools

We advised two community schools on all aspects of establishing a new charity and developing a purpose built community facility to provide adult education, a theatre, children's activities and hire spaces in a joint initiative between the schools and the local council.

An education provider

We advised an education provider on the sale of three independent schools and the acquisition of two independent schools for one of the largest independent school groups in the UK.

A leading independent school in the UK

We assisted on its arrangements to establish international schools in Hong Kong and China.

A British education institution

We advised our client on the establishment and structure of a new international school including advice on corporate matters and funding arrangements.

Owner of preparatory school

We advised our client, an owner of a preparatory school in Oxfordshire, on the sale of his school to a private investor.

A leading Australian private school

We advised our client on their international fundraising plans for their alumni.

A group of preschools

We advised a group of preschools on their lease of new school premises from a landlord, the takeover of assets from the previous tenant at the premises and the novation of tenancy agreements.

An independent school in central London

Advising an independent school in central London on restructuring its governance arrangements.

An top London independent school

We supported our client on their international fundraising projects.

Large London-based educational institution

We supported a large London based educational institution who were facing a campaign of defamatory allegations.

A global for-profit education group

We advised our client on on its acquisition of a leading UK university. This included establishing a new company to run the university and applying for that company to be registered with the Office for Students, awarded university title and degree awarding powers. We continue to advise the university itself on a number of matters following completion of the deal.

Leading London university

We advised our client on the refurbishment of a listed building on the university's central London campus to provide a new law school, and advising the same university on construction and procurement matters associated with the further redevelopment of the same campus.

Global education group

We advised a global education group on the acquisition of a specialist music and performing arts further and higher education institution and future plans for the institution post-acquisition.

Georgetown University

We advised Georgetown University on a range of issues relating to its two UK affiliates including immigration, data protection and structuring advice in relation to the Transnational Centre for Legal Studies.

Oxford University institution

Advising our client on the potential creation of a new Permanent Private Hall within Oxford University.

International education charity

We advised an international education charity on a cross-border whistleblowing investigation into bullying and harassment allegations against members of senior management.

A leading London University

We advised a leading London university on a new phase of student accommodation, including new build elements, renovation of a new listed student block, and design/installation of a combined heat and power facility to service the site.

A leading American University

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

French University

We advised a French university on the registration of its French supporting foundation as a charity in the UK for tax purposes under the Finance Act 2010.

An international school in Sri Lanka

We advised on the establishment of international schools in Hong Kong.

A private education group

We advised this education group in the acquisition of a private international school in Singapore.

An organisation which owns and operates international schools around the world

We advised them on 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.

A group of individuals

We advised a group of individuals on their sale of a group of private companies which own and operate pre-school and nursery business in Hong Kong to a special purpose vehicle owned by a leading provider of education products and services in Hong Kong.

A private equity fund

We advised on the acquisition of a popular preschool and English enrichment centre chain in Singapore.

An international school in Singapore

We advised in the sale of its leasehold interest in their school premises to another education provider for S$43.3 million.

An international school

On its application for alienation of state land for a long-term lease of 30 years to facilitate the building of its new campus.

An international school

We advised in their bid to lease school premises for three years by reviewing the preliminary agreement, lease agreement and rental terms.

Several international clients on setting up foreign schools

We advised in respect of setting up the foreign schools under the scheme set up by the Singapore Economic Development Board, as well as for foreign schools looking for expansion of existing premises in Singapore.

Two London universities

We advised on the framework documentation and forms of call off contract for the procurement of professional services for a range of capital projects to service their estates.

An international school in the financing of S$95.24 million

We advised in respect of their financing from a Singapore bank to acquire state land, to construct and develop a new school building in Singapore.

$45million grant to international school

We advised the Singapore branch of an international bank and an international school in respect of the grant by the bank of secured banking facilities of S$45million to the school.

An international school in Malaysia

We advised this school when it took up secured transferable loan facilities of US$10million for capex use from the Singapore branch of an Indian bank.

An international school

We advised this school in the grant of additional banking facilities of up to S$92million for financing the construction and development of a new extension to its school campus.

Numerous sponsors of academy school projects in the UK

These projects involve the use of model form documents for development agreements, finance agreements and leases, which are tailored to reflect particular considerations in relation to the school or site in question.

Several non-UK higher education institutions

We advised on their operations in the UK, particularly on employment status issues and TUPE.

Meet the team

Help with...

Would you like to hear more from us?

Visit our subscriptions page to tell us a bit more about what you’re interested in so we can send you relevant news.