India and Saudi Arabia have recently indicated an interest in policies for inviting international branch campuses which are integral part of transnational education strategies. Both these countries are among the top 10 sources of globally mobile degree-seeking students. In 2017, 332,000 students from India were studying overseas as compared to 84,000 students from Saudi Arabia, according to UNESCO. However, these numbers mean only a tiny proportion of total student enrollment in tertiary education have access to global learning – 1% in India and 5% in Saudi Arabia.
In other words, a large segment of the student population still does not benefit from the opportunity to engage in global learning experiences. I contend that policy-makers, quality assurance agencies and institutional leaders should rethink and reframe their approach to international campuses as a catalyst for expanding access to global learning.
In a previous article with Hans de Wit, I highlighted that the mobility of international students is under threat due to the challenge of affordability. One way to address this challenge is to frame IBCs as a way of bringing affordable global learning opportunities to students.
The institutional rationale for having a branch campus strategy ranges from building reputation to growing revenue based on the country and type of institution. IBCs are time-intensive and risky endeavors with little proven long-term impact. As a result, over the years, we have seen several cases of overseas campuses which have not met expectations and have faced closures.
To achieve the promise of IBCs, we must recognise that the needs and expectations of ‘glocal’ students who want access to overseas education at home are different due to a range of reasons, including academic preparedness and financial resources.
Institutional strategies and corresponding quality assurance policies which try to mirror the cost and quality structures of home campuses are unable to serve ‘glocal’ students and create a sustainable model. The alternative approach for national policy-makers, quality assurance agencies and institutional leaders is to recognise that the ‘copy and paste’ model of replicating home campuses is limiting opportunities for expanding access of global learning to more students around the world.