Branch campus growth has moved to Asia

Asia has become the focus of growth in international branch campuses after nearly a decade of rapid expansion in the Middle East, according to a just-released report by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), the UK-based research organisation.

It reveals continued growth and interest in establishing international branch campuses, including by developing countries in other developing regions.

"The expansion of overseas campuses into Middle Eastern countries, particularly in the Gulf, has slowed down and the Far East is definitely picking up," OBHE director William Lawton told University World News.

China is now one the fastest-growing destinations for branch-campus operations, according to the OBHE report International Branch Campuses: Data and developments based on survey information gathered in the second half of 2011.

China now hosts 17 branches compared to 10 two years ago. It is followed by Singapore with 18, up from 12 in 2009.

The latest OBHE report follows on a previous survey released in September 2009.

The current survey found there are now some 200 international branch campuses granting degrees, compared to around 160 in 2009 and 82 in 2006. "The rate of increase has slowed but may not have slowed very much," said Lawton.

Meanwhile, another 37 international branch campuses are expected to open over the next two years, mainly from the UK and US. Of the planned campuses identified by the OBHE, 13 are from American universities and colleges with destinations ranging from China to Korea to Rwanda, the report said.

Significantly, there are no new international branch campuses planned for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). "The centre of gravity for international branch campuses is clearly shifting eastwards from the Gulf," the report said.

Explaining the shift, the report said: "Financial support from the host government is a deciding factor in many cases.

"Prospective host governments are willing to assume the core financial risks in setting up a branch campus, through incentives like cash grants, land grants and tax breaks. This is a significant driver of the (branch campus) phenomenon."

In the OBHE's 2009 report incentive was seen as fuelling the rush to set up campuses in oil-rich countries in the Middle East. "But this is now assuming greater significance, as evidenced by grants from the Chinese state, exclusivity contracts with the government of Malaysia and the willingness of Singapore, for example, to cover costs even for one of the richest universities in the world [Yale]," the report said.

Asian hubs

The desire by governments to set up education 'hubs' is also key to where branch campuses are being set up, with almost all overseas branch campuses in the UAEand Qatar located in hubs.

Education hub status has become an aspiration of many Asian governments, particularly in East Asia. International branch campuses "are a most visible and crucial element of this aspiration," the OBHE said, adding: "The new data suggest that Singapore is meeting its aspirations most successfully."

The number of international branch campuses in Singapore "shot up" from 12 to 18 in two years, said the OBHE. Newcomers include EDHEC Business School of France, invited by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the UK's University College London and Manchester and, from the US, MIT and Stanford research centres. Scotland's Glasgow and Yale in the US are universities that have campuses planned.

Malaysia is also well established as a hub. Other governments with education hub ambitions are South Korea and Sri Lanka. Korea's Gwangyang Free Economic Zone is home to the STC-Group-Netherlands Maritime campus. The government is developing a science and education hub in Sejong City, south of Seoul.

The Incheon Free Economic Zone has been designated Korea's main education hub modelled on Singapore. "Once approval is secured from the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, foreign universities that open branch campuses are eligible for subsidies, campus facilities free of charge and initial support for operations," OBHE noted.

Originating countries

US universities still originate the greatest number of campuses abroad but the fastest growth in terms of education exporters has been from France and the UK.

Some 27 branch campuses have been set up by France, 12 of them by ESMOD International Fashion University in locations in Europe North Africa and East Asia.

The UK, with 13 international branch campuses in 2009, has almost doubled to 25. Among the new UK operations are four from University College London in Adelaide, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Singapore. There are also three new campuses in India: Lancaster University's partnership with GD Goenka World Institute in Gurgaon; Strathclyde Business School in Noida; and Leeds Metropolitan's purpose-built campus in Bhopal.

America has 78 campuses abroad, although there have been additions and closures. "In the last two years there was a slight slowdown in the US but my impression is that it looks like it's going to start taking off again. More than a third of the ones planned for the next two years are US branch campuses," Lawton told University World News.

Australia with 14 overseas campuses in 2009, now has 12. A new entry is the IITB-Monash Research Academy in Mumbai. The Australian Technical and Management College is setting up a campus in Sri Lanka to deliver University of Ballarat programmes.

South-South campuses

Non-traditional education providers like India, Malaysia and Iran are also building a presence abroad. 'South-South' institutions are another emerging pattern, with developing countries setting up campuses in other developing countries.

One in five international branch campuses originate from countries that are not traditional higher education exporters. Of these 34, or 17% of all branch campuses, can be categorised as South-South. Two years ago, 26 South-South campuses were identified, the report said.

India is the leader in provision from the developing world, with 17 campuses, 10 in the UAE and four in Mauritius. India's Amity University also has a campus in London, while the Mumbai-based SP Jain Centre of Management is planning a campus in Australia.

Malaysia's Limkokwing University of Creative Technology runs five of the six Malaysian campuses, in Cambodia, China, Botswana and Lesotho. It also has a campus in London.

Islamic Azad University of Iran is a newcomer with campuses in Afghanistan, Armenia, Lebanon, Tanzania and Dubai. It also has a campus in Oxford. According to its website further operations in Canada, Tajikistan and Malaysia are planned, the OBHE said.

China is setting up a campus in Laos building on significant business ties with that country.

"Given the extent of Chinese resource extraction activity in Africa, one should also expect more Chinese campuses on that continent, especially perhaps in Sudan, Angola, Zambia and Nigeria. Beijing State University is also planning a campus in Sri Lanka," the report said.

Campuses in Kenya and Tanzania both originate with Kampala International University in Uganda.

"I don't think South-South is going to explode. But there is a slightly different dynamic in South-South, which occupies the spectrum between revenue-earning and economic development," said Lawton.

"The Ugandan campuses in Kenya and Tanzania have higher motives. They are setting up for the purpose of regional development and knowledge transfer," Lawton said.

* William Lawton and Alex Katsomitros (2012) International Branch Campuses: Data and developments. OBHE, January 2012.

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