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.