The landscape of education is transforming at a breakneck pace, with M&A standing as a powerful testament to this evolution.

2023 was an interesting year for the sector. L.E.K. Consulting saw challenges and opportunities that set the tone for innovations and expansions. In this article we cover the factors that have characterized the M&A space in education and offer a roadmap for trends in 2024.

The M&A sector: 2023 in retrospect

A year of resilience

Despite decreased M&A activity globally, the education sector continued to show growth, with a modest decline in deal value and a surge in transaction volume. While 2023 brought an overall drop in M&A activity (by 25%-30%), the educational sector stood firm, with only a 13% decline, demonstrating its resilience amid broader economic fluctuations. That resilience can be attributed to these factors:

  • A shift in consumer priorities, emphasizing the need for continuous education and skill development in the midst of an uncertain job market
  • Government funding and initiatives directed at fortifying the education infrastructure, particularly with regard to digital transformation and innovative learning platforms
  • Various corporate and private equity entities’ increased interest in edtech companies’ potential to augment educational delivery methods

The rise of midsize transactions

Economic forecasts remained unpredictable, and investors shied away from mega deals. Instead, they favored numerous smaller and midsize transactions, creating a pipeline for larger M&A activities in the future. This pivot toward midsize deals reflects the industry’s cautious optimism, preferring to deploy capital in a safer, more distributed manner. It also signals future consolidation opportunities as smaller companies prove their mettle post-integration.

The dominance of PreK-12

Offering a compelling mix of long-term growth, PreK-12 education emerged as the preferred sector for substantial investments in 2023. Notable transactions such as EQT’s acquisition of IMG Academy for $1.25 billion and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s acquisition of assessment provider NWEA marked an upturn for this segment. The sustained allure of PreK-12 underscored a robust demand for foundational and supplementary education services globally and the sector’s relatively stable performance and resilient demand — even during economic downturns.

Corporate hand at the helm

With valuations more realistic than their pre-pandemic counterparts, companies took the lead in M&A activity, compared with financial sponsors. This shift attracted a mix of strategic buy-ins and partnerships, signaling a future ready for financial investment and consolidation. The higher corporate engagement offers synergy opportunities and strategic partnerships, setting the stage for more resilient growth-oriented models. In addition, it promises to create an ecosystem that welcomes both large and small players, fostering innovation through collaboration.

Projections for 2024: Trends to Shape the Year

Looking at 2024, several trends and themes are set to mold education sector M&A. These project a year of strategic realignments and technological integrations, with a renewed focus on foundational values.

Return of the mega deals. We expect to see a resurgence of mega deals this year, reflecting restored investor confidence and an enhanced understanding of value after the pandemic’s economic contractions. Several large companies — both targets and buyers — are poised to come to market, indicating heightened deal activity in the industry’s upper echelons. Key drivers for this resurgence include an improved global economic climate that is fostering risk appetite and capital availability and the increasing convergence of education and technology, which is generating novel platforms and services with widespread applicability.

Upskilling and reskilling imperatives. Companies anticipate a rapid 40% disruption in worker skills by 2027, so 2024 is projected to be a year of major upskilling and reskilling. This tectonic shift in work readiness is expected to catalyze significant M&A activity in the corporate learning and advancement space. An increased focus on skill enhancement will fuel demand for innovative learning solutions, both digital and traditional. In addition, it will drive collaboration between educational institutions and industry players to offer tailored programs.

Student safety and mental well-being. An upsurge in student safety incidents and mental health crises is prompting a dual response focusing on prevention and intervention. M&A activities will steer toward companies offering solutions in these domains, signaling a collective investment in creating a secure and supportive educational environment. Safety equipment and protocols, mental health support platforms, and anti-bullying and intervention programs will experience heightened investor interest.

Bridging the learning gap. The pandemic led to a significant learning gap among students, a challenge that will galvanize M&A deals in companies equipped to offer solutions. Platforms featuring personalized learning, remediation and adaptive learning content will attract substantial M&A attention as companies focus on changing the educational trajectory of millions of people. Deal activity will be influenced by the quest for measurable, data-driven educational outcomes and effectiveness, plus the search for scalable solutions that address the education gap in a pedagogically sound manner.

The emergence of generative AI. The potential of generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) to disrupt the educational framework has not yet been fully realized. Using GenAI to create custom content, personalized teaching methodologies and innovative assessment tools could very well usher in a paradigm shift. 2024 may bring a historic exploration of this untapped potential, leading to strategic alignments and groundbreaking developments. The more obvious possibilities for GenAI in education include innovative challenges to the conventional educational structures and a collaborative AI-human educational environment that combines the best of machine learning with human expertise.

The APAC edtech transition. With business-to-consumer edtech evolving toward brick-and-mortar setups in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, 2024 could see cross-genre acquisitions and strategic consolidations. The unique market dynamics and the burgeoning educational needs of APAC’s population will steer M&A strategies toward more-diversified investment patterns. Acquisitions in APAC edtech are expected to capitalize on the region’s growing digital infrastructure and educational conversions and to create novel hybrids of traditional and avant-garde educational models.

Ancillary deals across industries. Intersectoral ancillary deals, particularly in the K-12 sphere, are projected to gain traction as companies look to enhance their educational offerings with complementary services. This trend emphasizes a holistic approach to education, one that aligns multiple stakeholders in the synergy of an ecosystem. This combination of educational and service sectors will enhance the competitive edge for involved companies and create superior value propositions for end users.


The education M&A sector faced unprecedented challenges in 2023; they were met with strong resilience. As we continue to look forward in 2024, all signs point toward the importance of strategic investments, disruptive technologies and an unwavering focus on student-centric solutions. Stakeholders must chart their paths with a blend of foresight and agility because the trends we project are not mere speculation. They are strategic imperatives for the education sector that will define the year ahead. 

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