Teaching international students – how good is the branch campus?
One of the developments of global higher education over the past decade or so has been the establishment of overseas campuses – typically in Asia or the Middle East – by British, Australian and American universities. The first institution to branch out seriously was Monash University in Melbourne, which initially established a campus in Malaysia, and subsequently in other Asian countries, in South Africa and even for a while in London. The UK university that has been most active in this is Nottingham, with branch campuses in Malaysia and China; other British institutions followed. American universities have also been in this business, with Yale, for example recently opening a campus in Singapore. In Ireland the Royal College of Surgeons has been the most active, in particular with its campus in Bahrain.
So how should one evaluate this? Is an overseas campus a sign (as the relevant universities usually declare) of a commitment to the host society? Or is it a form of educational imperialism? Does it work well pedagogically; and indeed in order to do so, should an overseas campus be using local faculty or should it fly in professors from the main campus?
There are probably no definitive answers to these questions, but an article written in 2006 by the then Director of the London School of Economics, Howard Davies, sets out the issues succinctly. My own instinct is that overseas education needs to be approached as a partnership process; maybe this can be done effectively through branch operations, if these are well integrated into the local higher education system. On the whole I imagine, however, that strategic partnerships with local institutions provide a better avenue. Global higher education will be with us into the future, but it needs to work as a form of sharing of cultural and educational influences, not as a form of educational colonialism and not (at least primarily) as a business transaction.