Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of TECOM Investments’ Education Cluster
The challenges and opportunities of managing International Branch Campus (IBCs) were highlighted at The Observatory's Global Forum 2012 by Dubai International Academic City, a member of TECOM Investments’ Education Cluster that hosts 27 international universities.
The Observatory is a global strategic services organisation that conducts high-level research and disseminates emerging trends, best practices, policy frameworks, assessment and quality assurance information relevant to the delivery of cross-border higher education programme across the globe.
Held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 24-26 April, the two-day event built its discussion around its report titled ‘International Branch Campuses: Data and Developments’ released in January 2012. The event featured plenary presentations, seminars and panel discussions on the practicalities of establishing and operating IBCs.
According to the January 2012 report, the UAE hosts the highest number of International Branch Campuses (IBCs). The country’s 37 IBCs make up a world share of 19 per cent.
Dr. Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of TECOM Investments’ Education Cluster, said: “The UAE has witnessed a steady shift towards the globalisation of higher education. From a domestic focus in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the sector has adopted a more international outlook since 2000 especially after the creation of major free zones such as Dubai Knowledge Village and the Dubai International Academic City. The trend offers significant opportunities for stakeholders in the higher education landscape.
“The three pillars that constitute best practices for a branch campus set-up include due diligence that comprises market research, regional market intelligence, and the right team players. Secondly, it is essential to start slow and ensure a sufficient incubation period while adopting best programmes and a strong student recruitment strategy. Finally, it is imperative to observe a sustainable approach through measured growth, strong home campus support and a clear vision of programme development.”
Dr. William Lawton, Director, The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, said: “A key factor for planning the event was to explore the increasingly important role of education hubs in the national higher education strategies of many countries. We were, therefore, pleased to secure Dubai International Academic City’s participation at the event. As we all know, Dubai was one of the original hubs, dating back to 2003. The Global Forum benefited from the academic destination’s long-term perspective, future plans and innovations.”
According to The Observatory report, the number of international branch campuses (IBCs) for higher education continues to expand at a steady rate, rather than with a headlong rush. However, the IBC landscape is changing in line with prevailing geopolitical currents. According to data collected by The Observatory in the latter half of 2011, there are 200 higher education branch campuses around the world. This is an increase of 38, or 23 per cent from the September 2009 report, which identified 162 IBCs.
Commenting on his participation in the forum, Professor Raj Gill, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University, London, said: “IBCs are playing a major part in imparting quality education in various well-established locations around the world. The next few years will start defining in some detail the reason for their success and failure. Although reputation and financial risk continue to be the key considerations, this has not diminished the interest in or the growth of IBCs. Hosting one of the highest concentrations of IBCs, Dubai will continue to play a key role in the development of best practices for ensuring the success of IBCs.”
There has been a growing trend of continuing growth of ‘south-to-south’ IBCs in which both the home and the host institutions are in developing countries or the Middle East. Nearly 17 per cent of the 200 IBCs worldwide fall into the south-to-south campuses.
The report noted that the expansion of IBCs worldwide continues as an important element of higher education internationalisation. IBCs extend the reach of institutions in such a way as to enhance their international profile and status. More importantly, they provide greater access to an expanding student market, especially in Asia where demand for higher education is expected to continue to outstrip supply for another 20 years.
Many governments, especially in Asia and parts of Africa, see IBCs as preferable to the outward migration of young people and as essential components of their national economic and developmental goals, as expressed through the drive and support for education hubs.