Супер транснациональноеThe past decade has seen a rapid expansion of transnational education (TNE), including twinning arrangements, joint programmes, and international branch campuses.
Branch campuses typically attract a fair amount of enthusiastic forecasts as well as critique but there are signs of a growing caution on the part of educators with respect to such ventures – a reserve that may be informed in part by a growing body of research suggesting that “expanding for the sake of expansion” carries a high risk of failure.
This caution may not necessarily foreshadow a decline in the number of branch campuses operating worldwide, but it does reflect that the branch campus is a TNE strategy to be employed selectively and under specific circumstances. It also underscores a growing awareness of the challenges associated with international campuses, particularly issues of financial viability and quality assurance.
The European Association for International Education (EAIE) conducted a survey among staff at higher education institutions in the European Higher Education Area, which resulted in a report called The EAIE Barometer: Internationalisation in Europe. This report reveals that more than half (53%) of university employee respondents had witnessed no increase in branch campus activity at their institution in the past three years. Meanwhile, 1% had seen a “substantial increase” in branch campus activity, 12% noted an increase, and 1% had seen a decrease.
Branch campuses were among 15 categories of internationalisation that the EAIE study explored with respondents – and they emerged as the lowest priority overall relative to other initiatives. The top priorities mentioned by respondents were: strategic partnerships (79%); international research and innovation (79%); staff mobility (73% outgoing and 71% incoming); internationalising the curriculum (68%).
As for why branch campus activity is prioritised below other internationalisation initiatives, the answer is in large part the high risk and difficulty associated with operating a physical campus abroad. There are currently over 240 international branch campuses around the world; many of these are located in the Persian Gulf region as well as in Asia. Demand for branch campuses is also changing as countries once considered source markets (e.g., China, South Korea, Singapore) develop into attractive destinations for international students and begin to climb up world university rankings.