Chris Morling knows a thing or two about creating a phenomenally successful company. Having founded financial comparison site money.co.uk in 2008, he then went on to sell it for over £140 million in 2017. Now, Morling is back to studying. That is, with his new international education platform, Studee.
The company, co-founded with friend Simon Andrews, who has worked in the global higher education sector for two decades, aims to help students find their dream university abroad. We spoke with Chris about his new venture.
Having been so successful in the comparison site industry, why did you decide to tackle the international education sector with Simon? Was there a specific reason or moment that led up to this?
After selling money.co.uk I wasn’t ready to retire, Simon happened to call me around the time I was making the decision to sell the business (we’ve been friends for years). We met up and over a bottle of Malbec, the idea for Studee was born.
I’ve always believed education is one of the best ways to positively impact the world. From a young age, learning has played a huge role in my life as both my parents were teachers. With Simon’s experience in the education sector and my expertise in the tech world, it felt like a natural progression to go from FinTech to EdTech.
As you have mentioned before, younger generations rely much more on technology than previous generations. Do you think this improves the educational experience overall, specifically international education?
Technology has helped to open up the world to international students. Students now have access to a huge variety of resources to help make informed decisions about where to study, what to study and what they’re going to need to get there. Virtual campus tours help students to get a feel for their university before they arrive and apps and other online resources help students not only with their studies but also to settle into new areas. International students can use social media to network with other international students, getting first-hand reviews and making friends. Technology has had a hand in boosting the industry massively and is still fairly untapped.
We have some very exciting plans for the future to completely take the leg work out of finding a university for international students.
Will Studee include Russell Group and Ivy League universities in the future?
We’re striving to get a large and diverse range of universities using our site, including universities in the Russell Group and Ivy League. We currently have universities from over 40 countries and our goal is to add a lot more over the next 12 months.
What do you think is the thing international students struggle with most in the application process, based on queries to Studee?
Documentation – qualifications – assessment
One of the most difficult things for international students is getting their qualifications and documentation translated. Every country has a different qualification system that needs to be translated to see if the student meets the respective countries’ entry requirements – these often need to be verified which can take weeks. This is a huge pain point for international students and they need lots of support with it. We’re currently creating technology to help make this process easier in the future.
If you could only pick one, what would be the very best thing about Studee?
Our team. In business, your team is your engine. If you choose the right people, not only will your business be successful but you’ll enjoy going into work every day because you’re working with a team of like-minded, intelligent, driven and fun individuals you don’t mind spending the majority of your time with. Our team is all very passionate about what they do and I feel very fortunate to have them.
International education harms the environment, and this is something that Studee is tackling head-on with the Trees for Degrees project. I think it is an interesting and brave thing to bring to light given the sector relies so heavily on travel. What made you decide to do this?
It’s been the elephant in the room for too long and someone needed to take action, so we thought, why not us?
We’re dealing with students who are most likely to suffer the consequences of the climate crisis in the future. These young people care deeply about how their choices now impact our environment in the future and we wanted to help them by giving them an option that means their choices won’t harm our planet.
We’re conscious by doing this, we’re exposing international education to criticism because of the reliance of travel, but we decided the risk to the planet was a much bigger priority. If this means our competitors and more universities follow in our footsteps then all we’ve done is facilitate others to take action.
Does international education always outweigh the environmental costs?
We’re trying to find a way to make international education thrive without meaning there is a cost to the environment. The two are of equal importance so everyone in our industry needs to work out a way of balancing things out. We’re doing it with Trees for Degrees and we hope to see more people in our industry either join our initiative or set out their own.
Educational mobility can be make or break for many countries around the world, especially for underdeveloped communities. It can improve students’ career prospects and help them gain invaluable skills they would otherwise never have been exposed to. Getting an international education can completely change not only one person’s life but entire communities. Some countries can’t offer students the level of education they need, it’s important students have the opportunity to broaden not only their own horizons but also those of the people they return to.
Is it possible that Studee will move beyond the application process?
We currently offer a fully bespoke service for our students through innovative technology and real human support. We’re there for students from the moment they think about studying abroad, right through to enrollment. Our student advisors help with visa guidance, program application queries, country-specific entry-level requirements, what scholarships are available, which program to choose and what programs might have the biggest impact on their career.
What is the ultimate goal of Studee?
Our mission is to maximise the education and life opportunities for students by making studying abroad simple. Over the next three years, we aim to scale the business to help determine which university is right for tens of thousands of students. We want to be the world’s number one choice for students to study anything, anywhere.