Report breaks down increase in international branch campuses

November 10, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The number of collegiate international branch campuses (IBCs) has risen 26 percent between 2011 and 2016, with China overtaking the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the top host country, according to a report authored by the world's two leading authorities on the subject.

The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), in conjunction with the Cross-Border Education Research Team (C-BERT), on Nov. 9 released the report, “International Branch Campuses, Trends and Developments, 2016,” which reveals there are presently 249 IBCs around the world enrolling at least 180,000 students. The number of countries hosting IBCs has increased to 76, up 10 percent since 2011, with the top five host countries as China (32), UAE (31), Singapore (12), Malaysia (12) and Qatar (11), which together host 98 IBCs, or 39 percent of the world’s total.

“Quality assurance is adapting as the IBC phenomenon expands into more countries. We are seeing the emergence of new systems for managing and regulating truly multinational universities,” said Kevin Kinser, co-director of C-BERT, and professor and head of the Department of Education Policy Studies in Penn State’s College of Education.

Rachael Merola, senior researcher at the OBHE, highlights the importance of the report’s findings, stating, “International branch campuses may be the most ambitious kind of cross-border higher education, redefining institutional identities and national systems. Our ongoing work marks the most comprehensive research to date on the IBC phenomenon, combining the resources of the OBHE and C-BERT to come to a new understanding of the past, present and future of IBCs.”

The report shows that China has overtaken UAE as the top host country driven by government incentives and strong student demand. Meanwhile, the UAE has experienced a modest decline in the number of IBCs. This shift is part of a wider trend of growth concentrated in Asia, particularly China, Malaysia and South Korea from 2011-2015.

“While there is increasing pushback against globalization efforts, these trends suggest that many countries and students still see cross-border education as a way to build capacity within their country,” said Jason Lane, a co-director of CBERT and chair of the Educational Policy and Leadership department at State University of New York at Albany.

The number of home, or “source,” countries also has increased in the past five years: IBCs now come from 33 different home countries, an 18 percent increase since 2011. The top five home countries, in terms of the number of IBCs, are the United States (78), the United Kingdom (39), France (28), Russia (21), and Australia (15), which together account for 181 branch campuses, or 73 percent of total IBCs.

While the growth in IBCs is undeniable — 66 were founded from 2011-2015, amounting to a 26 percent increase in that time period — the distribution has been uneven: only four new IBCs were developed in Africa outside of the MENA region and just one in South America from 2011-2015. In addition, future growth continues to be largely driven by providers based in the United States and Europe. Of the IBCs currently under development worldwide, around half are planned by institutions based in the United States and United Kingdom.

International Branch Campuses, Trends and Developments, 2016, follows on four previous editions of the report, published in in 2002, 2006, 2009 and 2012 by the OBHE and many C-BERT publications. The report release date is timed to coincide with the OBHE’s Global Forum, titled "Brain Gain: charting the impact and future of TNE," which will take place in Kuala Lumpur, Nov. 9-11. A second part to the report, to be released in 2017, will focus on interviews with institutional leaders at a sample of IBCs in operation for at least a decade. This report will investigate motivations and operations of mature IBCs, judge impact from different perspectives and explore what combination of conditions breeds success.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 14, 2016