CIBT’s Global Education Alliance Bearing Fruit Through Sprott Shaw And The Student Housing Boom 

By R. Paul Dhillon

VANCOUVER – The proprietors of venerable Sprott Shaw College are seeing a boom in their education and related property business in the huge demand for student housing, especially with the influx of foreign students into Canada.

Vancouver-based CIBT Education Group Inc.’s holdings include education providers Sprott Shaw College, Sprott Shaw Language College, Sprott Shaw College International, Urban International School (Toronto), Vancouver International College and CIBT School of Business. Through these schools, CIBT offers business and management programs in healthcare, hotel management, language training, Ontario high school diploma and over 150 career, language and vocational programs.

CIBT’s property investments are owned by Global Education City Holdings Inc., an investment holding and management company focused on developing education related real estate such as student hotels, serviced apartments and education super centres totalling over $600 million. CIBT also owns Global Education Alliance (“GEA”) and Irix Design Group (“Irix Design”). GEA recruits international students for many elite kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities in North America.

CIBT held a special event last Thursday to unveil their further alliance with City University of Seattle at their offices downtown with an eye to expand their students’ educational options with a BAM program of Arts and Management.

The LINK had an opportunity to sit down with CIBT head Toby Chu, President and CEO of CIBT Education Group as well as Victor Tesan, President of Sprott Shaw College and honcho Randy Frich, President of City University of Seattle.


CIBT is currently developing the latest in a series of mixed-use properties that harness demand from international students and for residential real estate to create what company CEO and president Chu calls “a win-win for everyone.”


Chu said he came up with the concept of blending real estate and education on a flight from Toronto when he hit upon the revelation that airlines were making more money on cargo than on passengers.


“I took the same concept,” Chu said. “International students are after education first but housing is the Number 2 priority.”


Over the last five years, Chu said CIBT has transformed itself into a mega real estate developer that has seen returns on investment of more than 300% with a valuation that has risen from $300 million to $1.2 billion.


“Our focus is to give students safe, top of the line housing that is fully furnished and includes internet and cable and to top it off it’s very affordable in the current rental climate,” Chu said.


The student housing, mostly studio units planned for two residents, rents around $800 per month.

This January, CIBT purchased three land parcels at Oakridge for $30.3 million and is developing a $103 million global education centre that will include 14-storey and 27-storey towers with schools, office space and 466 beds of student housing. Slated to complete in 2023, Chu projects the future exit value at $174 million.

In Surrey, close to a Simon Fraser University campus and, like all its projects, near a SkyTrain station, CIBT has scaled back a planned 55-storey tower into a more efficient 38-storey building. It will house Sprott Shaw and other college or university classrooms and 180 student rental units. A further 180 mini-condos will cover 10 floors and are expected to sell for around $750 per square foot. The project is being developed with WestStone Group.

CIBT’s property business is complemented by their venerable institution Sprott Shaw College, which was established in 1903. College president Victor Tesan told the LINK that with their varied program offerings such as in Business and Pathway, the college’s focus is on promoting personal and lifelong learning.

“We follow a holistic model of teaching and our programs are geared towards getting students into the job market and that’s why we have forged new partnerships like the one with City U, which gives our students option to further their studies and have all the courses they took at Sprott Shaw to be counted as credits towards a degree program at City U,” Tesan said.

City U president Randy Frish concurs that it’s a great partnership between the two institutions and really complements the education options available to students, especially international students, which Frish would like to see more at the City U.

“We both have the same objective and that is to see that students get good value for their money and a good education,” he said. “It’s very satisfying to see families happy that their children are making something of themselves through our institutions and it’s humbling and very inspiring.”

CIBT head Chu, born in Hong Kong and a Vancouver Community College graduate who has lived in Vancouver for 52 years, is excited to continue the education legacy of his education assets continue to Surrey with final civic approvals for CIBT’s GEC Education Mega Centre in the growing city by this fall with construction underway shortly after.

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