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.


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:


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.

More global goings on

Differing global view points

In a recent post I offered some comments on views about internationalisation’s mid-life crisis. Reports of two other recent conferences in Canada offer different perspectives on the globalisation of higher education. First, the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education has a report on its Global Forum which took place in Vancouver:

The overall theme was ‘Levelling the international playing field’ which, for our purposes, was expressed in the rise of new countries in international higher education and transnational education (TNE), the rise of private providers, the use of immigration controls in traditional education-export countries (which makes the new national players comparatively more attractive), and in how HE is applied as a policy tool for social and economic goals and in national development strategies.

In his welcome remarks, Observatory Director William Lawton sounded a few cautionary notes. He reminded participants that in spite of global and borderless ideals, senior scholars from Iran, India and the Democratic Republic of Congo were absent from their number because they could not get visas to enter Canada. He further noted that while economic and political power were hurtling eastwards, the ‘international playing field’ was still well short of level for poor countries and regions.

‘Mathabo Tsepa, Lesotho’s High Commissioner to Ottawa, kicked off proceedings with an inspirational and moving account of the transformative power of higher education in her country. She and Daniel Schwirtz, an engineering postgraduate at the University of British Columbia, recounted the role of students who participated in a sanitation and clean water project in rural Lesotho.

Joseph Duffey, Senior Vice-President of Laureate International Universities and a former senior official with three US Presidents, spoke of the casual uses of the word ‘globalisation’ and suggested that the nature of public diplomacy had moved on from its roots in ‘winning hearts and minds’. Duffey noted the difference between building branch campuses and working with other countries as partners. The implication was the emergence of new models, as expressed by the Liverpool-Laureate partnership through which Laureate makes the university’s programmes available online and provides personal student support.

At a separate conference, this time in Toronto, reported in the  Times Higher Education, a strikingly different view was offered:

Powerful public universities are manipulating the “desperation of people whose university systems [have been] completely demolished” to make a “fortune” from overseas branch campuses, a senior university leader has claimed.

Adam Habib, deputy vice-chancellor of research, innovation and advancement at the University of Johannesburg, told a conference in Toronto on 16 June that on a recent tour of American universities, he was struck by how many were setting up campuses overseas.

“I was struck by how many really manipulate the desperation of people whose university systems are completely demolished and utilise that opportunity to make a fortune so that they can pad the balance sheets,” he said.

Professor Habib said that this was “not simply an American problem”, but one that afflicted all unequal relationships across and inside continents. He pinned the blame on the move away from state support for higher education around the world.

What are we to make of these very different perspectives? First, the overall picture remains a very messy and confused one. Lots of universities are engaged in a wide range of transnational partnership activities at varying levels of intensity. Secondly, there are major national interests at play here; it’s not just one way traffic and many countries are seeking rapidly to develop their HE systems with international support. Thirdly, while there may be some institutions seeking to establish branch campuses purely for financial gain it is questionable whether such a mission is sustainable or indeed whether there is really money to be made from such activity in the way suggested here. International partnership activity can be a genuine force for good and should be seen as a serious long term mutually beneficial arrangement rather than a vehicle for making a quick buck.