Competitive Advantages

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Our Competitive Advantages

We believe we are well positioned to compete in the Brazilian higher education market, especially in the Northeast and North regions, mainly due to following factors:

Unique positioning in areas with a great potential for growth

We believe we are the largest private organization in the higher education sector operating in the Northeast of Brazil, in terms of units, with 50 MEC-accredited units in the region on December 31, 2020, including UNIJUAZEIRO, whose closing of the acquisition operation was disclosed by the Company on November 3, 2020. We also have a strong presence in the North region, with 19 additional accredited units, already added to the 3 UNINORTE units, whose acquisition operation we concluded on November 1, 2019, according to the Notice to the Market published on the same date, and to UNIFACIMED, whose closing of the acquisition operation was released by the Company on November 10, 2020. We believe we are the company with the strongest capillarity in the sector in these regions, with units located in all states, and also we believe to be the institution with the largest number of student positions approved by the MEC for the higher education market, with approximately 1,870,300 positions per year as of December 31, 2020.

The Northeast and North regions are the fastest growing regions in terms of student enrollment for undergraduate courses in Brazil. According to data provided by the Ministry of Education, from 2011 to 2016, the number of undergraduate students in Brazil grew at an annual compound rate of 3.6%, being 5.1% in the Northeast region and 4.7% in the North region, rates that are much higher than in other regions of the country, such as the Southeast, Midwest and South, with 3.0% p.a., 3.4% p.a. and 3.0% p.a., respectively. Therefore, in view of our strong presence in the Northeast and North regions, we believe we have a high growth potential for our businesses, in line with the growth in demand observed in that regions.

Value creation, financial performance and growth

We implemented several efforts in recent years to improve the operations of our units, as well as their results and profitability. In 2014, we launched a Shared Services Center (SSC) with a relevant idle capacity in order to allowing us to increase our student base at very low marginal costs. In 2016, we launched our new distance learning operations center, located in Recife. We believe this facility will give us the ability to absorb and act centrally in relation to all future projected needs for our distance learning operations.

As a result of these efforts, we were able to observe, during the period between December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2020, an increase in our total student base, which grew at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 12.8% even amidst a challenging economic scenario in Brazil with GDP growing only 1% in 2018, and in 2019, the economy began to show signs of recovery, although still slow, with GDP still growing by 1%. In 2020, due to the adverse impacts resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, GDP dropped 4.1% when compared to 2019. Our average monthly ticket, calculated between the fiscal year ended on December 31, 2018 and the fiscal year ended on December 31, 2020, decreased 2.0%, while the Broad National Costumer Price Index (IPC-A), between December 2018 and December 2020, observed an increase of 9.2%.

Business model with high scalability, replicability and standardization of operations

We believe we can expand our operations through acquisitions, generating significant efficiencies, as well as from our scalable business model that can absorb more units and students at a reduced incremental cost. Since our Initial Public Offering in December 2013, we have acquired and integrated more than 20 institutions. On average, all the systems of these acquired companies were integrated into ours, including the adaptation of their curriculum framework into our model within six months after the acquisition. Our operational efficiency, obtained through the implementation of pioneer control instruments in the education sector such as efficient classroom management, standard processes and pedagogical plans, together with the intensive use of technology, enables us to add new units, courses and students quickly and efficiently, without compromising our profitability. Our unified educational project allows us to effectively control the quality and consistency of our educational practices, disseminating these practices and delivering standard and better educational content throughout our educational network.

Our administrative activities are concentrated in our Shared Service Center, which allow us to efficiently implement our expansion plan and generate gains in scale. This model has helped us increase the quality and efficiency levels of our internal processes, supporting growth at low incremental costs. We believe this structure enables us to expand our operations organically and through acquisitions, generating significant efficiencies from our scalable business model and standardized processes. In addition to inorganic growth opportunities, we also believe we are operationally prepared for the organic growth of our on-campus operations and our digital learning platform.

Differentiated value proposition for students

We believe potential students choose their higher education institution based on a combination of four main factors:

(i) Brands with strong appeal in their respective regions: we have strong regional brands that are highly recognized by the target audience and the job market for their educational excellence. Grupo Ser Educacional brands are considered Top of Mind in eight cities in the Northeast, North and Southeast regions. Our "Maurício de Nassau" brand has a high recall rate in the higher education industry in the Northeast and North regions, being the most mentioned higher education brand in the State of Pernambuco and one of the most recognized in the other northeastern states, according to surveys conducted by the Company. We believe these results are associated with the quality of our education. UNINASSAU Recife has, for 11 years, been the most remembered brand in the item Higher Education Institution according to the Recall Brand Award from Jornal do Commercio, in addition to reaching relevant brand recall positions in João Pessoa, Maceió, Natal, Fortaleza and Salvador. In the North region, UNAMA Santarém has been the most remembered brand for the VOX Empresarial award for five years. UNAMA Belém is on the list of the 20 best institutions for exchanging in the country, while UNINORTE is the most remembered institution in Manaus and has the 10 best courses in Amazonas. The Distance Learning of the Ser Educacional Group also stood out, having three (3) of its courses among the 15 best Distance Learning courses in Brazil, with the Gastronomy course we offer being elected the best. As Ser Educacional Group, we were finalists for the "The 100+ Innovative in the use of IT" award, in addition to being the first Brazilian case of process automation on the Robotic Process Automation platform, from Blue Prism. We also received an unprecedented award in Brazil: Studen Success category, in the Blackboard Catalyst Award. Such achievements are the result of our investments in communication and marketing, which are relevant for the dissemination and recognition of our brands. Furthermore, such positioning observed in our brands strengthens the demand for our courses, contributes to our marketing efforts and influences our ability to attract and retain good professionals in the regions where we operate.

(ii) Physical and technological infrastructure offered by the institutions: renovated buildings with classrooms equipped with air-conditioning, wi-fi and audiovisual equipment, in addition to modern laboratories. Furthermore, we also have a strong technological infrastructure, with an Academic Portal on a digital platform so that our students and teachers can monitor their academic life with access to several information, such as the electronic class register, collegiate tests, financial agreements with us, online applications, enrollment in a new semester, among others;

(iii) Differentiated curriculum matrix: Ubíqua offers a ubiquitous educational model that offers education using active teaching methodologies through a state-of-the-art technological platform that allows students to have a differentiated teaching experience whatever the chosen educational modality (on-campus, hybrid digital) or certification mode (undergraduate, graduate or continuing education) with modern content and high flexibility of creation and new courses and distribution model;

(iv) Creation of an educational ecosystem: we have started to invest in the creation of new formats for the distribution of courses, which included the creation of new undergraduate and graduate formats, which were called digital courses. These courses allow accelerated graduation of students, creation of a wider range of courses, offer of undergraduate and graduate degrees with double certification in partnerships with international educational institutions and companies. Another aspect of this ecosystem is the creation of new forms of commercialization such as the creation of the online sales portal GoKursos (www.gokursos.com.br) which, in addition to our undergraduate and graduate courses already known in the market, now offers free courses and a continuing education model where students can take as many courses as they like for a fixed monthly payment. In addition, we are constantly creating ways to offer, such as direct sales via social networks or via e-commerce platforms of retailers in the Brazilian Market; and

(v) Prime location and easy access for students. This is a key factor for determining a potential student’s choice of an educational institution and our units are strategically located in major capital cities and metropolitan areas in the Northeast, North and Southeast regions, usually close to our target audience’s workplaces or homes, as well as in easily accessible areas with local infrastructure that are convenient for students. This characteristic increased the higher perceived value of both on-campus and digital learning courses among our target audience, as students enrolled in distance learning courses must periodically go to the units. We believe that combination of factors has a significant impact on the value perceived by students. Since location is a key factor in the success of an educational company, we will evaluate options that enable us to secure the best properties in the cities where we operate and, at the same time, obtain appropriate returns. We also understand that our units are a decisive factor for the growth and expansion of our Digital Learning due to the fact that we have centers for such a service that students must periodically attend.

Quality teaching and cost-effectiveness

The structure we developed has allowed us to offer quality education to our students at a more competitive price than our main competitors. Our academic programs, undergraduate and graduate educational services, as well as our faculty, students and facilities have always been consistently evaluated positively by the MEC and by our students. Our institutions have an IGC (Índice Geral de Cursos, or General Index of Courses) and Institutional Concept (CI), with 62% of operational units having CI 4 or equal to or greater than 3. We believe this performance reflects our ongoing efforts to improve the quality and infrastructure of our courses. We have an academic audit department that standardizes and monitors our academic activities, enabling us to maintain high quality and consistency in all our processes. We believe our high educational standards and over 60% of our professors have master’s or PhD degrees that also attract potential students. Our tuition fees are carefully set based on the price charged by our direct competitors at a level that is appropriate for our value proposition and ensures healthy return levels. This is possible because, by improving academic development offered, faculty training and administrative and management functions in our head office, we are able to reduce costs related to the administrative and management structure at each unit. This allows us to charge affordable tuition fees and continue providing quality educational services for our students.

Professional management and well-established corporate governance

We have been focusing on adopting a business philosophy in our operations since inception. Our Management team is comprised of professional executives with extensive experience in the educational industry, particularly in higher education, with a business vision based on clearly defined targets, considerable experience in opening new units, obtaining authorization for new academic programs and acquiring other companies, speeding up the decision-making process. Most of our senior executives have over 10 years’ experience on average in the industry and have been at the Company for over six years, which we believe ensures greater alignment between the performance of these professioanls and our governance values and practices. In addition, we believe strategic partnerships, which bring knowledge and experience complementary to our own, add great value to our business. In addition to the Remuneration and Finance Committees, Ser Educacional introduced a Fiscal Council, composed of three members, in 2015, after the proposal submitted spontaneously by the Company’s Management was approved. As part of Management’s plan, the Fiscal Council was reinstated for fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020.