The Sunday New York Times published a general overview (‘Universities rush to set up outposts abroad’) today regarding the phenomenon of overseas campuses. This article (the first of a series this week – see the bottom of this entry for links to all of the articles when they have been published) focuses on US campuses in the Middle East, especially universities that have ‘home’ bases in New York (it is the New York Times after all!), Pittsburgh and Washington DC, though reference is made to developments in other parts of the world. An explicit US-centric view is developed in the article.
The article is particularly worth perusing for the accompanying slideshow of campuses including Carnegie Mellon in Qatar, New York Institute of Technology Abu Dhabi, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and George Mason University – Ras Al Khaimah Campus, as well as the teaching rooms of the University of Washington’s certificate programs in Abu Dhabi.
This story, on top of news last week that Royal Holloway, University of London, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC) to establish the University of London’s first overseas campus by 2011, is a reminder that venturing abroad is an internationalization option more and more universities are deliberating about.
With opportunity comes confusion, this said. Some universities are simply overwhelmed with options, as the University of Washington (in Seattle) outlined in the article:
The demand from overseas is huge. At the University of Washington, the administrator in charge of overseas programs said she received about a proposal a week. “It’s almost like spam,” said the official, Susan Jeffords, whose position as vice provost for global affairs was created just two years ago.
And yet the article implies, as does the American Council on Education’s report Venturing Abroad: Delivering US Degrees Through Overseas Campuses and Programs (2007), that the opportunity/risk/implication calculus is only in the early stages of a sophisticated conceptualisation. Indeed our own research leads us to believe that the calculus is remarkably unsystematic with universities incrementally ad-hocing it through the deliberative process. Little systematic information is available regarding how to plan the planning process, optional models for overseas campuses, legal innovations (e.g., regarding the protection of academic freedom), best and worse cases, and so on.
Some universities have also not recognized the importance of closely relating core principles and objectives to the idea of accepting or rejecting an overture to open an overseas campus. Interestingly, one university that has is the University of Pennsylvania, and their stance on overseas campuses is an unequivocal no. In the New York Times article Amy Gutmann, president of Penn, is quoted as saying “the downside is lower than the upside is high” especially because the:
risk is that we couldn’t deliver the same quality education that we do here, and that it would mean diluting our faculty strength at home.
New York University (NYU), also the focus of some attention in the article, is clear that their network university model simply requires campuses in other countries; an issue we discussed in some detail in our entry on NYU Abu Dhabi.
Interestingly, both NYU and Penn are active in Singapore. NYU has developed one independent arts school (the Tisch School of the Arts Asia), while Penn is present via intellectual engagement (and some associated secondment activities) with key Singapore-based actors shaping the development of a new university (Singapore Management University) . Thus Penn’s clear principle is to deeply internationalize (including by bringing Penn’s intellectual power to the development of new campuses in countries like India and Singapore), but in a manner than strengthens their one and only campus while concurrently reducing financial and brand name risk.
The outcomes that we read about in such articles, and that we see in such photographs, are dependent upon a suitable mesh between the principles guiding universities as they seek to internationalize, and the territorially-specific development objectives of host governments. One of these territorial objectives is capacity building, an issue we will explore in some detail over the next several months. Now back to those Sunday papers…
11 February Update:
The second article in the series (‘In Oil-Rich Mideast, Shades of the Ivy League’) was published in the New York Times. This article focuses on the student experience in overseas campuses in the Middle East. Readers of the article have been submitting questions here.