The New Wave of Branch Campuses

Branch campuses are in news again with some optimistic and others with pessimistic tone. However, this time it is more than Gulf region and also has some big names involved.

After mega launch of NYU, Abu Dhabi, Duke‘s plans for China and Yale‘s plan for Singapore are being closely watched. However, both of them have faced resistance from faculty. While Yale faculty is concerned about academic freedom, Duke’s faculty is concerned about financial feasibility.

A report in University World News noted “Concerns over the cost of a new branch campus for Duke University in Kunshan, near Shanghai, which is set to open in 2012, has led to vocal opposition from Duke faculty.” It adds that “Duke is spending around US$37 million on a new campus in China when more than US$125 million has been lopped off its own budget in recent years, and arts and humanities are facing a $3 million budget deficit this year. Some $5.5 million is being spent by Duke to ensure the facility meets US standards.” This is significant commitment from the university and success of this model has implications for other universities considering to start branch campuses.

In India an interesting trend is emerging where foreign universities are starting their campuses in India while Indian universities are going abroad.

Schulich School of Business of York University will be starting it’s India campus in 2013. Few other branch campuses in India  include Leeds METLancaster University and Strathclyde.

On the other hand, Amity University is starting its Dubai campus this year. Dubai already hosts branch campuses of Manipal, BITS and IMT.

Philip Altbach in his article The Branch Campus Bubble? reminds us that “A necessary episode to recall is that 20 or more American universities rushed to Japan in the 1980s to start branches, but only two survived.” We have also not forgotten fate of MSU, Dubai which had to close its undergraduate program due to enrollment short-falls. In a recent article Francois Therin notes “The future of higher education in the Gulf revolves around the issues of numbers and quality.”

Branch campuses are getting a new impetus driven by an demand from countries like India and China and pressures to generate additional revenue streams. However, it will be interesting to see how these branch campuses are defining their target segment of students? Are they all targeting the same segment–self-financed students in management and engineering programs? Is this segment big and unique enough to support proliferation and feasibility of branch campuses?


Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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