Bucking The Branch Campus

Career College Central summary:

  • George Washington University was, like many American universities, contemplating a campus in China. Under the leadership of Doug Guthrie, the former dean of the business school and the vice president for China operations, George Washington was in discussions about possibly developing a campus in partnership with the University of International Business and Economics, in Beijing. But after Guthrie was fired from his administrative posts in August for budget overages in the business school, the university shifted course, convened a faculty advisory committee, and, last month, confirmed it would not proceed with building a China campus after all.
  • In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Steven Lerman, George Washington’s provost, said, “We asked, 'What are some of the key principles we’d have to fulfill in order to be comfortable with a project as substantial as a campus in China?' ” He identified those principles as fourfold: 1) that a China campus would meet the academic standards of the Washington campus, 2) that it would be financially self-sustaining, 3) that it would align with the university’s strategic plan, and 4) that it would have strong support from the faculty. That last one, Lerman said, proved to be the stumbling block.
  • The number of overseas branch campuses has risen in recent years. Among the highest-profile examples, New York University opened a campus in Shanghai last fall, its second branch after one in Abu Dhabi. Just in the last few weeks, Arkansas State University broke ground on a new campus in Mexico and the University of Utah announced that it had secured approval from South Korea’s Ministry of Education to open a campus in Songdo, an aspiring educational hub: Utah will join George Mason University, which opens its campus in Songdo this month, and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, which has been operating there since 2012. Last fall, Texas A&M University made headlines when it announced its intention to build a branch campus in Israel, which, if realized, would be its second international campus after one in Qatar.
  • But amid the branch campus building boom, plenty of universities are, like GW, deliberately saying no, at least not now, citing reasons ranging from finances to academic freedom to insufficient faculty interest.
  • Columbia University has since 2009 created a network of eight Global Centers meant to promote faculty research and student exchange opportunities. But “the elevator pitch is that it’s not a branch campus,” said Safwan M. Masri, Columbia’s executive vice president for global centers and global development and the director of the Columbia Global Center in Amman.
  • In marketing materials, Michigan explicitly frames the joint institute with Shanghai Jiao Tong as not a branch campus: rather it is an English-medium engineering college within Shanghai Jiao Tong that Michigan has collaborated with on curriculum and academic development and research.

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