Do branch campuses have a future?
A thoughtful piece by Philip Altbach this for Inside Higher Ed on the sustainability or otherwise of branch campuses. An earlier post on this topic covered similar ground with both pieces asking questions about how many such ventures would ultimately succeed.
Branch campuses seem to be the flavor of the month or, perhaps, the decade. Universities, mostly but not exclusively from the developed and mainly English-speaking countries, have established overseas branches worldwide — mainly in developing and emerging economies. The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education counted 162 branch campuses in 2009, with American universities accounting for 48 percent of the total. No doubt the number of branches has increased significantly since then. The Arabian Gulf has received a great deal of global attention since several countries have welcomed — and paid for — branch campuses, as part of their higher education growth strategies. For example, Education City in Doha, Qatar, currently hosts six American universities and one from Britain. Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf countries have additional branch campuses of foreign universities. Singapore predates the Gulf as a higher education hub.
Altbach identifies a number of key reasons why there might be trouble ahead:
- Student recruitment challenges
- Academic and professional services staff – getting them there from the home campus
- Funding uncertainty
- Academic freedom concerns
- Politics at the home campus
- General instability and change
So, he counsels, beware, it may be just a bubble that is about to burst. Although I have to say that’s not the view at the University of Nottingham.