International branch campuses: over-exposed?

 Are there too many branch campus headlines? Not quite.

A recent piece in University World News suggested that there was just too much attention given to international branch campuses rather than other forms of international activity:

International branch campuses receive a lot of attention for their motivations, successes and failures. In addition, some recent big-name endeavours like New York University Shanghai and Yale-NUS College in Singapore add to the perception that more institutions are building overseas campuses.

In reality, branch campuses form only a small proportion of the internationalisation activities and models of transnational education engaged in by institutions.

For example the United Kingdom, which has been promoting transnational education as part of its national strategy, reports that only 3% of its 600,000 students studying wholly overseas for a UK qualification in 2012-13 were enrolled in an overseas campus of a UK higher education institution.

In contrast, one out of five students pursued a UK degree through a distance learning programme.

If the goal of the global engagement strategy of a higher education institution is to be truly ‘global’ and to ‘engage’ learners from many countries in a cost-effective, controllable and flexible manner, then online and open learning cannot be ignored.

A recent report shows that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, is shaping its internationalisation future around its prior initiative like OpenCourseWare and now edX.

It forecasts a future where education will be unbundled and degrees will be disaggregated “into smaller credential units such as course credentials, sequence credentials, and even badges” with the possibility that “the credentialing entity may be different from the institution that offers the course”.

Leaving aside the tedious unbundling rhetoric it is right to observe that internationalisation is a multifaceted strategy for any university and there is much more to being a global university than just branch campuses. However, there are many such campuses around the world of many different kinds.

For example, the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus (UNMC) is home to some 5,000 students and over 450 staff, located at the edge of Kuala Lumpur in a breathtakingly beautiful setting and the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) campus houses over 6,000 students and over 400 staff). Both campuses are larger than a good number of UK HE institutions and are already, despite their relative youth (UNMC became the first overseas campus of any UK university some 14 years ago and UNNC was founded in 2004), they are already punching significantly above their weight in both research and teaching in their host countries.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

OBHE, in its most recent report, identifies some 200 or so branch campuses around the world with another 37 at least in the pipeline. It is likely that many more have been initiated since this report was published.

However, very few of these are of the scale, breadth or depth of the Nottingham developments and many are much smaller scale operations with teaching delivered in rented office accommodation by staff who fly in for a few weeks before flying back home again.

The reality is that despite their scale and success these campuses really do not get much attention. Rather the nascent developments of NYU in Abu Dhabi and Duke University in China seem to grab all the headlines despite their small scale. (Not that I’m at all cross about that.) This does therefore give a rather misleading impression of international branch campus activity.

Britain’s global university

Nottingham actually has three international campuses at present; as well as those in China and Malaysia there is the original campus in the UK which is also strikingly international with over 9,000 international students from 150+ countries. The international ethos is embraced in all that we do and is strongly articulated in the University’s mission:

At the University of Nottingham we are committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring our students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around our campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. Our purpose is to improve life for individuals and societies worldwide. By bold innovation and excellence in all that we do, we make both knowledge and discoveries matter.

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Campus at University of Nottingham Ningbo China

Our academic staff on all campuses are international in composition (25% are international) and outlook too. More than one in five of our undergraduates undertakes international mobility. 17% of published research outputs are internationally co-authored and 37% of our research funding is obtained internationally. We have strategic partnerships with other leading universities in over 25 countries and one of the largest scholarship programmes for students from the developing world. And we do distance learning and offer a number of MOOCs too.

So, there is a lot more to an international university than just branch campuses but, in context, it is clear that serious international campus activity can be a key component of a global strategy for a university. If only they got a bit more attention.

 

 

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More interest in branch campuses

Immigration constraints prompt overseas interests

Out-law.com has an interesting piece on institutional ambitions overseas:

In research carried out by Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, 67% of surveyed universities said that Government policy on immigration and fees made them more likely to establish an overseas presence.
The internationalisation of higher education is not, of course, a new phenomenon – 80% of universities surveyed already have an international presence – but the pace of internationalisation is accelerating, driven in most cases by the change in Government policy.
The most popular method of international collaboration is currently the use of joint or dual degrees, with 57% of those surveyed already providing these and 52% considering collaborating to reach overseas markets.

 

University of Nottingham Ningbo, China - Internationalisation for real

University of Nottingham Ningbo, China – Internationalisation for real


As the article notes there is a lot more to internationalisation than branch campus development but nevertheless it does seem that there are plenty of institutions considering the possibility:

When choosing where to expand to, the Pinsent Masons survey revealed that, unsurprisingly, universities are focussing on where the greatest demand is – namely countries with an expanding middle class and a relative shortage of higher education places.

This is why universities are focusing on China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil and the Middle East. Of those surveyed, 80% of universities told us that they were targeting China.

More surprising is the presence of the USA, an already mature higher education market, on the priority lists of over half of universities.

Although the idea of establishing an overseas campus is not new and does represent a rational response to the challenges of Government immigration policy this is a far from straightforward strategy. As noted in a previous post about the University of Nottingham’s international activities there is a lot to consider and it requires a significant, deep and sustained commitment to internationalisation. Both abroad and at home.

On the size of branch campuses

Biggest isn’t always best but it does tell you something

Looking at the latest University of Nottingham student statistics and the most recently published HESA data it struck me that Nottingham is now the UK’s largest campus university (ie if we exclude the Open University). However, it is important to understand that two of our campuses are not in the UK but in Malaysia and China. Both are integral parts of the University, they host University of Nottingham students who study on University of Nottingham degrees and are taught by University of Nottingham staff. And, as the recent QAA review of the University of Nottingham Ningbo China demonstrated, they do it all rather well.

Just to be clear about the numbers then. our latest figures show that we have the following number of students:

– University of Nottingham UK – 33,944
– University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) – 4,360
– University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) – 5,461

So nearly 44,000 students in total. Which makes Nottingham overall significantly ahead of the University of Manchester. Big deal you might say.

But the issue here really is about recognition that our campuses in Asia (and other UK universities who are more recent arrivals may say similar things) are integral parts of the University. The data on these campuses and other UK university students studying overseas is now collected by HESA and the only other source we have of overseas campuses from other countries is the OBHE survey, last published in January 2012.

This survey shows that two of the top 5 (in terms of size) offshore campuses of universities are in fact UNMC and UNNC. The OBHE top 10 is as follows:

Institution and total students

1 RMIT in Vietnam – 5,145
2 Monash University in Malaysia – 5,000 (approx.)
3 University of Nottingham Ningbo China – 4,536
4 AMA International University in Bahrain – 3,945 (2008-09)
5 University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus – 3,779
6 Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University – 3,240
7 Curtin University in Malaysia – 3,080
8 Limkokwing University of Creative Technology in Botswana – 3,040
9 Wollongong in Dubai – 3,000
10 Monash University in South Africa – 2,685

Although accurate updated figures are hard to establish it would seem that as of now the top five is roughly the same but with Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University replacing AMA International in Bahrain and with UNNC still the largest UK branch campus. OBHE only has student number data for just over half of the 200 branch campuses it has registered – of the 77,448 students counted in 2010-11, just under 12% of these are University of Nottingham students.

Looking at the data in the 2012 survey on some of the other branch campuses often cited as examples of significant global activity, it is clear that they are much smaller operations. For example:

  • Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi – 606 students
  • UCL in Kazakhstan – 140 students
  • Carnegie Mellon in Qatar – 280 students
  • NYU in Abu Dhabi – 307 students
  • UCL in Qatar – 2 students

Others often referred to such as Duke Kunshan and NYU Shanghai do not formally open until later this year.

So, the University of Nottingham is the biggest UK campus university and is the UK university with the biggest international campus. Just to help with the sense of scale of operations, if UNNC were in the UK it would be around 120th largest HEI, slightly smaller than Cranfield and the University of Chichester but still larger than around 40 other UK HEIs, including SOAS, Abertay and Queen Margaret University. And combined UNMC and UNNC are bigger than around 60 UK HEIs and would be roughly 100th largest.

Just to add at a bit more perspective here UNMC is only 13 years old, UNNC has yet to celebrate its first decade. Both campuses have grown extraordinarily quickly and both have significant profiles in their host countries.

One more statistic. For every one of the last five years 100% of UNNC graduates have secured jobs or progressed to further study, many of the former to multinational companies with operations in China, many of the latter to leading universities around the world. It’s a KPI to be proud of.

This is the future. Significant and large multinational, multi-campus operations. Several other UK universities followed Nottingham’s lead in Malaysia. Others are now looking at China. The UK remains second only to the US (or third if we count France’s ESMOD’s 12 overseas fashion schools) in the number of branch campuses overseas according to OBHE. I’m sure it will continue.

Is London the new UAE?

More branch campuses opening in the city

But most of them belong to UK universities, not overseas institutions. According to last year’s OBHE report there are six international branch campuses in London (four from US universities and one each from Malaysia and Iran). There are many more offices and outposts too. However, the growth seems to be coming from UK institutions opening offshoots to offer courses, primarily professional and postgraduate, in the major market of the metropolis.

The latest arrival, according to Universities News, the University of Liverpool:

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Liverpool University will open a campus in London for students attracted by studying in the capital.

It is the first of Britain’s leading universities to open a campus in London and may prompt other institutions to follow suit.

Many Liverpool undergraduates want to continue studying for master’s degrees but want to do so in London. Opening a campus in the capital is a way to “keep them in the family” according to Professor Sir Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of Liverpool.

The university has leased a former bank building on the edge of the City of London and about 150 students will enrol on the first courses there in September.

At full capacity the campus will hold up to 1,500 students, mostly postgraduates studying courses such as business and law. Many of them are expected to be mid-career professionals who need a master’s degree to progress in their field.

But Liverpool are far from first to open a London branch. Coventry, Sunderland, GCU, Glyndwr, Ulster, Anglia Ruskin, Bangor and Cumbria universities all have outposts in the capital.

So there is some way to go before London catches up with UAE’s 37 branch campuses but it is still an interesting trend.

The Imperfect University: The End of Internationalisation?

Is it the end for internationalization?

No. It’s not a bubble. It’s not bursting.

A recent Chronicle blog suggested that, in common with some other higher education activities, internationalization was a bubble and about to burst. It isn’t. International student recruitment patterns continue to evolve, some branch campuses are less successful than others and the global economic downturn is having an impact on everyone. This doesn’t mean international higher education is finished.

Unfortunately though it does seem that with all of the hype around MOOCs and the talk of the havoc that this disruptive innovation will wreak on higher education it is beginning to feel that internationalization is last year’s topic for university leaders. Leaving aside the fact that online learning, in whatever form, can largely be offered freely across national borders, the key issue here is the challenge presented by MOOCs to the traditional campus experience, especially when it is on an offshore campus.

The argument goes that if students can access university courses wherever they are why would they need to travel to a campus overseas (or a branch campus in their own country) to do so. At a stroke therefore transnational education and student mobility are eliminated and branch campuses, of which there are now in excess of 200 with at least another 37 on the way (according to the latest OBHE survey from January 2012), will inevitably wither and die.

First, I really don’t think all the MOOC hype sounds the death knell for internationalization of higher education. It remains a huge and growing market across the world with over 3.5m (in 2009) of the world’s higher education students studying in countries other than their own and growth rates in tertiary education and student mobility only expected to slow a little over the next period (according to the British Council’s Shape of Things to Come report).

Second, the campus offer remains a hugely attractive one. Whether it is a UK, US or Australian university or the Chinese, Malaysian or UAE campus of a western institution, the nature of the experience, the quality of delivery and the employment prospects offered by successful completion of a degree all still look like a pretty good option, wherever you are in the world.

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Third, in terms of promoting the home institution overseas, whilst a couple of snappy MOOCs might look like they have some decent enrolments, there really isn’t a substitute for a substantive in-country presence for raising profile.

Fourth, when western governments start getting sniffy about visas then the branch campus option nearer home (which is usually cheaper too) looks increasingly like a sensible option.

Fifth, universities are, of course, about much more than just content delivery. Developing a comprehensive branch campus offer doesn’t just mean offering courses, it’s also about engaging with students in a different cultural context, establishing new research and knowledge transfer activity (including bilateral investment opportunities) and playing an active part in a community in another country.

Sixth, as the OBHE report shows, branch campus numbers continue to grow as universities realize the long term benefits of establishing a physical presence overseas. And whilst NYU seems to have run into some difficulties at home in persuading its faculty of the merits of its international ambitions, more and more universities are following its lead and that of Nottingham in building overseas campuses.

Seventh, and this is the key reason that internationalisation will not disappear, it is an intrinsic part of higher education and it is fundamentally a long game. You don’t build a branch campus overnight and it is a huge long term commitment. Not quite the same as a 10 hour MOOC. Demonstrating commitment to a branch campus is hugely important to show that the university is there for the long term and not merely pursuing temporary opportunistic goals. This kind of genuine internationalization is serious, inevitably risky and extremely challenging. But it’s worth it.

Not over yet

Not over yet

So has disruptive innovation displaced internationalization? Will MOOCs kill branch campuses? No. Undoubtedly the challenges in maintaining the quality of campus delivery and the need to blend online and face-to-face will become more sharply focused but the future of higher education remains most firmly international.

The narrative around disruptive innovation is very short termist, its evangelists preach the language of overnight revolution, of avalanches and tsunami. Seductive as this hype might be from those who think that the physical campus is sure to die, they are profoundly mistaken. There will remain a fundamental place for the campus in the high quality higher education experience for many years to come. Steady long term pursuit of international development remains sound strategy. Investment, partnership, relationship building, putting down roots, long term commitment, shared learning, indeed all of the things that run counter to the disruptive innovation discourse, are at the heart of internationalization.

Internationalisation of higher education may have been displaced by MOOCs in the headlines but it is still very much at the heart of strategy of leading universities. It is therefore perhaps a bit early to be writing off internationalization of HE and branch campus developments.

Unwanted branch campuses

An unwelcome higher education arrival.

University World News reports on French unhappiness at a Portuguese interloper:

Portugal’s private University Fernando Pessoa, or UFP, is planning to set up a second branch in France – despite a complaint filed last year by French Higher Education Minister Geneviève Fioraso that installation of its first university centre in France was against the law.

The UFP’s first branch, the Centre Universitaire Fernando Pessoa, was set up last November at La Garde, near Toulon in the Var, southern France. It offers humanities and social science courses and, more controversially, health studies including dentistry and pharmacology at bachelor, masters and doctoral levels.
assi_horiz
The university claims its Portuguese degrees are valid throughout the European Union – including in France which, unlike Portugal, exercises strict selection in health studies with an 85% failure rate at the end of the first year.

In recent years many failed French medical students have continued their studies by moving to other countries such as Belgium, Romania and Spain. Now the UFP at La Garde offers them an opportunity to do so on home soil – at a cost.

UFP charges between €7,500 and €9,500 a year, compared with French university charges of €181 for first-degree general medical studies and €250 for a masters.

It is a surprising situation. UK institutions do not exactly welcome foreign branch campuses either but there are at least six already in this country according to the OBHE plus dozens and dozens of smaller offices, most of them in London. With France’s 85% failure rate though it does look like there might be a good market for UFP’s health studies courses with their more relaxed entry requirements. Even with their significantly higher fee levels.

New Branch Campuses in China

Some new Branch Campuses on the way

The University of Nottingham admitted its first students in China back in 2004, establishing the first Sino-Foreign University in China and then opening its campus, pictured above, in Ningbo in 2006. There are now over 5,500 students following University of Nottingham degrees at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China. Since then others have followed, employing different models at different scales and with various partners.

An earlier blog post covered the general expansion of branch campuses. Now Hanover Research has a piece on prospective branch campuses in China. It reports that the the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education (OBHE) has identified at least seven branch campuses currently being planned for mainland China – accounting for approximately one-fifth of all branch campuses slated to open through to 2014. All are from western universities, with five from the United States and two from the United Kingdom. The article actually lists seven US universities:

  • New York University
  • Duke
  • George Washington U
  • Berkeley
  • Kean (which seems to be the most advanced)
  • Missouri St Louis with Missouri U of Science and Technology

The piece doesn’t name the UK universities but I have a pretty good idea about one of them.

Some more details of the OBHE report can be found in a University World News story on the topic and some surprising information about Chinese university opening a European branch featured in an earlier blog post.

From National to Global Universities

A nice piece from David Wheeler in the Chronicle of Higher Education on some of the challenges for universities in going global:

Universities, like companies, may need to make the transformation from being a national brand to being a global one. Siemens, once thought of as a German company, now says that it is “a global powerhouse in electronics and electrical engineering, operating in the industry, energy, and health-care sectors.”

Global brands can be adapted to various local markets, while still staying globally integrated. I just gave away a collection of international Coke cans, consisting of many different shapes and bearing Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish words, among others. But they were all instantly identifiable as Coke cans.

As some universities seek to be global, they often emphasize that a degree in one country will be exactly identical to a degree in another. I’m left wondering if a little more flexibility might be in order.

Human-resources departments may need to rise in importance as universities seek to become more global. The complexities of managing different people in different places are high, and human-resources departments, which are often simply the servants of academic departments at many universities, need to acquire and share their expertise on how to manage a mix of expatriates and local workers in a variety of countries.

I think this flexibility point is well made. Institutions do have to adapt to the environment in which they are operating. Education cannot be entirely context independent. Academic standards do, of course, have to be consistent. So, whilst term dates may be different and the timetable may look a little unusual, the curriculum, learning outcomes, assessment and examinations, admission requirements and academic staff qualifications, to name but a few components, do have to be directly comparable to ensure that the standards of awards and the quality of the student learning experience are maintained. These are fundamental to sustaining the institutional brand.

An earlier post noted the continued growth in branch campus developments by universities. All of the issues faced by global corporations, from maintaining the brand to developing HR operations, are shared by universities looking to grow a presence overseas. But it is very difficult to do this alone:

Lastly, I think that universities can learn from corporations about how to better manage partnerships. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say it: Universities approaching partners need to think of programs that would benefit both parties. Approaching a computer company and asking for money or machines to take back to the university doesn’t work for the company, without some benefit being offered. Companies have their own problems to solve.

The issue of partnerships is crucial. Any institution looking to establish a genuine global presence is not going to be able to do it alone and will in all likelihood require government backing as well as other partners to help with infrastructure development and navigating through a different policy and legal environment. None of this is straightforward but can be done and does bring rewards. In the long run.

There is an interesting link here to the recent story about the UK Universities Minister’s discussions with Goldman Sachs about ways to support offshoring opportunities for British HEIs. Branch campuses are not the solution to domestic economic travails but they are a serious option for universities looking to establish a global brand. Although there are many challenges associated with such developments, the benefits are significant.

International branch campuses- some surprising developments

Some new and rather surprising branch campus developments

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education’s new report on international branch campuses (IBCs), entitled ‘International Branch Campuses: Data and Developments’, was released on 12 January and is covered in a previous post. The report included a list of 37 planned branch campuses, most of which are due to open this year or in 2013.

In the intervening six weeks the Observatory reports that it has come across more planned branch campuses in a range of countries, including Cyprus, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, Thailand and UAE. More than a dozen are identified including this perhaps rather surprising one in Italy:


Ningbo University
, China, will set up a campus in Florence, to open in September 2012. This is the second Chinese branch campus abroad, the first being Soochow University in Laos, and the first South-to-North operation coming from China. As noted in the Observatory’s report, South-to-North is here to stay and more are expected to launch over the next few years.

The project was negotiated at the local rather than the national level. According to University World News, Florentine officials said that there was no need for authorisation from the Italian government and the campus would not be regulated under Italian higher education law. This highlights two aspects of the Italian higher education system – a high level of devolution, with local authorities playing an active role in higher education policy, and a lack of flexibility at the national level. The mayor of Turin revealed in a recent interview with La Stampa that he wants to attract foreign universities and is in touch with American universities.

Ningbo’s campus in Florence will mainly target Chinese students, and the first courses will be in art and culture. Chinese students started coming to Italy only recently and now constitute the second-largest national group of students in the country. Italian commentators have also noted the forging of ties between Italy and China across many sectors, which can be interpreted in various ways in the light of the crisis in Europe and growing anti-European sentiment in Italy. Others point towards a closer relationship between China and the EU.

Fascinating stuff and challenges the expected view of western universities opening branch campuses in the east.

A slow down in branch campus developments?

Perhaps, but there’s still a lot going on

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, OBHE, has published its fourth report on international branch campuses. The OBHE definition of a branch campus, which has broadened since the previous report, is this:

a higher education institution that is located in another country from the institution which either originated it or operates it, with some physical presence in the host country, and which awards at least one degree in the host country that is accredited in the country of the originating institution.

The report highlights some interesting developments in branch campus activities across the globe. The New York Times offers a helpful summary of some of the key findings and suggests that the latest data indicates something of a slowdown:

Of the 200 operating branches, 78 are connected to American universities, as are a third of the 37 being planned.

Among the planned programs in China are New York University’s liberal arts campus, the University of California, Berkeley’s engineering center, and programs by Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Kean University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are planning programs in India; George Mason and Stony Brook are opening in South Korea; the Berklee College of Music in Spain; and Carnegie Mellon in Rwanda.

The report also found that universities in developing countries are now opening branch campuses in their regions. India, for example, has four campuses in Mauritius.

While the United Arab Emirates still has the most branches (37), the greatest growth has come in China, which has 17 branches now, up from 10 in 2009; and Singapore, which has 18, up from 12.

Over the last decade, as globalization and international rankings have become increasingly important, many American universities have seen branch campuses as a way to bolster their prestige.

And although many university officials like to speak of their international efforts as altruistic contributions to world development, the vast majority are in the Emirates, China, Singapore and South Korea, which pay large sums to attract big-name institutions, and few are in poorer nations in Africa or Latin America.

This is a really telling point, particularly in relation to US insitutions’ international activities. However, what is also fascinating in the report is the number of countries which are hosting a branch campus for the first time:

Afghanistan
Armenia
Bangladesh
Botswana
Croatia
Finland
Ghana
India
Indonesia
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kosovo
Lebanon
Lesotho
Mauritius
Morocco
Nepal
Nicaragua
Syria
Tanzania
Turkey
Uzbekistan

Interestingly, half of these developments are south-south, ie where both provider and host are from the southern hemisphere.

Plenty more in the report too.

Branch campuses: cut or grow?

Contrasting views of the right direction for internationalisation

A recent piece in the Times Higher covered a report from the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education on what looks like something of a retrenchment in institutions’ international activities:

Opened with great fanfare in the 1990s and 2000s, international branch campuses such as Suffolk’s – which Du Jardin says lost about $1 million (£622,000) a year because of lower-than-projected enrolment – have been quietly closing for financial and other reasons.

This doesn’t mean the end of so-called “transnational education”: universities are increasingly taking the more affordable step of teaming up with host partners. And a report by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, due to be published next week, will show that the UK has become the international leader in such efforts. More international students are now working towards UK degrees overseas than at home, the OBHE says.

But much of the momentum behind opening entirely new campuses in other countries seems to have been lost. For example, US universities opened a peak of 11 international branch campuses in 2008. Last year they launched just three, and this year, one. And at least 13 US, Irish and Australian international branch campuses have closed, according to the Cross-Border Education Research Team at the State University of New York at Albany. The OBHE report will also show that international branch campus activity has slowed.

“We had a gold-rush mentality. All sorts of universities thought this would be a new way to increase international market share and gain new revenue,” says Jason Lane, the SUNY research team’s co-director.

This was covered in a previous post on US universities and in a report on the ‘branch campus bubble’. But a rather different perspective is provided in a recent report from the 1994 Group of universities (again reported in THE):

Research-intensive universities in the UK should be considering setting up more campuses overseas to counter the threat of falling international student numbers at home, a mission group has said.

A report on internationalisation from the 1994 Group suggests there is more scope for research-intensives to set up abroad – and that they should consider working with other universities to achieve such a goal.

The study says post-1992 universities had been able to deliver more higher education “offshore” than pre-1992 institutions, but there was no reason why they should not follow suit.

This was also imperative given that they had traditionally relied on being able to attract large numbers of overseas students to study in the UK – a trend now at risk from the government’s immigration reforms.

“There is scope for research-intensive institutions to grow offshore provision internationally as University Alliance and million+ universities have successfully been able to do,” says the report, Strategies and trends in the internationalisation of UK universities.

An interesting contrast. But, as previously noted in relation to another set of views on branch campuses, this has to be a long term strategy for institutions and cannot be viewed as simply an income generating activity (ie to offset any drop in international student recruitment to the UK). A gold rush mentality just does not work here.

Are US universities retreating from international ventures?

It seems there is a “new caution” for US universities overseas

Seattle P-I has a piece on what looks like a slowdown in the international activities of US universities:

High-profile and expensive failures of Middle East branch campuses run by Michigan State and George Mason were a wake-up call. Suffolk University recently closed a campus in Senegal after concluding it would be cheaper just to bring the students to Boston. The University of Connecticut dropped plans for a campus in Dubai amid criticism of the United Arab Emirates’ policies toward Israel. Plans for a University of Montana campus in China never panned out, and Singapore’s government shut down a Johns Hopkins University biomedical research center.

Even elite schools still pushing forward, like Duke, Yale and New York University, have faced resistance from faculty concerned about finances, quality and whether host countries like China, Singapore and the UAE will uphold academic freedom.

The result: a new era of caution, particularly toward a model that once looked like the wave of the future. Some experts say branch campuses — where a U.S. university “plants a flag,” operates its own campus and awards degrees in its own name — are falling from favor.

“The gold rush mentality of the 2000s is over,” said Jason Lane, a professor and co-director of the cross-border education research team at the State University of New York-Albany. His data show 60 U.S. institutions with 83 overseas campuses in 39 countries. But the number of new international branch campuses peaked at 11 in 2008 — just before the financial crisis — and only four have opened since.

Caution is certainly advisable. However, the real caution here is against a view of internationalisation of university operations which sees it as a “gold rush”. No institution should see developing a presence in another country as an income generating activity as a response to a time of financial challenge. Whilst some universities have been extremely generously supported by host governments, most notably NYU and the Sorbonne in Abu Dhabi, for most the dowries are much smaller. And, as previously argued here, internationalisation, and the establishment of an international campus in particular, is a long game. There are no get rich quick schemes here. The article goes on to note that:

Instead, schools like UCLA and the Universities of Michigan and North Carolina have opted for more of a soft-power approach — a range of partnerships often starting on the departmental or school level where the home university is less invested but also offering an easier exit strategy if things go south.

But surely such partnerships are part of the everyday life of internationally engaged universities – it’s not about choosing one strategy over another but rather different facets of a genuine approach to international partnership. Again, this is about building long term and enduring partnerships which will, ultimately, be of benefit to all.

The Branch Campus Bubble?

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:

Education City Convention Centre, Doha

  • 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.

How Much Do Branch Campuses Really Matter?

So, do branch campuses really matter?

The Chronicle of Higher Education carries an interesting piece on branch campuses by Ben Wildavsky:

What should we make of the news this week that Michigan State is closing its Dubai campus? In my view, not too much. If one satellite campus’s demise meant that others were bound to fail, MSU would never have ventured into the United Arab Emirates in the first place. It is no secret that foreign branches don’t always work out. The boom in U.S. branch campuses in Japan in the 1980s ended in a whimper, with only Temple University’s outpost left standing. In the late 2000s, a branch of Australia’s University of New South Wales didn’t last past its first year in Singapore when enrollment projections didn’t pan out. Early last year, George Mason also abandoned its small campus in the Emirate of Ras al Khaimah over disputes with its partner, the for-profit firm Edrak, over how soon the institution might reasonably be expected to turn a profit. And some branch campuses are stillborn; in 2005, the year before Nigel [Thrift] became vice chancellor, the University of Warwick abandoned its ambitious plans to create a satellite campus in Singapore amid faculty concerns over academic freedom and financial viability.

Yet other satellite campuses seem to be doing very well, thank you, from the University of Nottingham’s branch in Ningbo, China, to the assorted U.S. boutique elites, including Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, congregated on the edge of Doha in Qatar’s Education City….The bottom line: Branch campuses are at heart entrepreneurial ventures. Some will succeed, some will fail, and it will take time for universities to figure out which models, if any, are best replicated in which locations.

Many of these branch campuses are located in ‘education hubs’ (see previous post on this point), and enjoy substantial subsidies from ambitious governments. However, some campuses are different and, of course, I would argue that the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, rightly identified as successful above, and the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus represent something significantly different from the standard branch campus described here: they are integral elements of the University. So, in Nottingham’s case, even if not for others, these campuses really do matter.