In last couple of years, Africa has been gaining traction in terms of transnational education. It includes a diverse range of models from traditional branch campuses to emerging blended-learning models. Monash University South Africa had been one of the early movers in Africa and established the branch campus in 2001. More recently, Laureate International Universities partnered with Monash South Africa as a part of its strategy to invest in emerging markets. Here is a brief interview with Ron Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus President of Monash South Africa who shares his experiences in institution building and offers recommendations to universities interested in engaging with Africa.-Rahul
Ron Weber is Pro Vice-Chancellor and Campus President of Monash South Africa. Previously, he was Dean of the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University(2004-2013). Prior to joining Monash University, he was Professor of Information Systems in the School of Business and Research Director for the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law at The University of Queensland. Ron is a past president of the Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand and the international Association for Information Systems. He is also a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia, CPA Australia, the Association for Information Systems, and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.
Rahul- How would you describe the experiences of building an institution of excellence like Monash in South Africa? How do you expect your experiences to change with the recent partnership with Laureate International Universities?
Ron- Establishing a high-quality tertiary institution in South Africa has involved a substantial investment on the part of Monash University over many years. It has also required a deep commitment by many colleagues to the success of the South African campus. The tacit and explicit institutional knowledge that Monash has built up over a long period of time in relation to how to operate in an international environment has also been central to the success of the South African campus. Laureate has brought a new set of complementary capabilities to our South African campus. By leveraging the combined capabilities of Monash and Laureate, we are confident we can grow the campus quickly to a new level of excellence that will benefit all our stakeholders.
Rahul- What would be your couple of recommendations for higher education institutions interested in venturing with branch campuses in Africa?
Ron- First, any tertiary institution seeking to establish a branch campus in Africa needs to understand that they will need to make a deep-pocket, long-run investment if ultimately they are to be successful. They also need to understand that their senior management must be truly committed to ensuring the branch campus operates effectively and efficiently. Second, substantial time will need to be spent in understanding the local environment–for instance, the regulatory, social, and cultural contexts that bear on the operations of a tertiary institution. Third, it will take time to establish trust and respect as a tertiary institution in Africa. Because of past experiences with some branch campuses, many Africans have concerns about the likely longevity and quality of branch campus operations.
Rahul- How do you see technology-enabled learning models shaping the future of transnational education, especially for infrastructure-intensive branch campuses in Africa?
Ron- With the emergence of MOOCs, tertiary institutions that rely on a physical campus-based education need to reflect carefully on the value proposition they provide via an on-campus experience. My own view is that increasingly the value proposition must be tied to learning opportunities that arise through internships, community engagement, professional engagement, and case-study work where face-to-face engagement by the members of a student team is required if high-quality solutions are to be found. I believe that tertiary institutions involved in transnational education have the ability to develop rich on-campus experiences for their students–for instance, by providing greater access to and support for international internships and their offering case-study work that has a truly international flavor.