Branch campuses and Brexit: should universities be doing more?
“Branch campuses could, and should, be one of the major methods by which UK universities look to broaden worldwide access to education”
Is building new campuses in the EU the route to safety for UK universities in a post-Brexit world? Chris Hellawell, head of account management at Diversity Travel, argues it is, and King’s College London’s move to partner with TUD in Dresden should be the first of many such ‘branch campuses’.
King’s College London recently announced its intention to become the UK’s first university to open a branch campus in the EU. In collaboration with Technische Universität Dresden, it aims to create an ‘offshore King’s College Europe’, with TU Dresden dean Professor Stefan Bornstein commenting that the plan will allow King’s to have a presence in Europe and maintain access to European research funding post-Brexit.
Branch campuses are by no means a new phenomenon in the higher education landscape – in May this year, the University of Birmingham announced its intention to open its first international branch campus in Dubai next year, for example. With a total capacity of 4,500 students, within six years it will offer a full range of science, engineering, business, social science, and humanities programmes – mirroring those offered by the university’s home campus. Yet last year’s Brexit vote has dramatically increased the significance of these campuses and their potential value to universities.
Recent statistics suggest that over two thirds of prospective students based outside of the EU would be very or somewhat likely to study at a continental outpost of a UK university. In addition, with the numbers of applications to UK universities by EU students down 5% on last year, branch campuses could potentially offer a highly valuable means of attracting these students discouraged by travelling to the UK to study.
“Branch campuses offer a means for academics to cement the reputation of the UK overseas, retaining important teaching and research partnerships, as well as access to funding, to allow us to remain competitive on the global stage after Brexit”
It is also clear there is much more work to be done. Recently it was revealed that while more than 700,000 people are currently studying for a UK degree or tertiary-level qualification outside the country (with the value of transnational education increasing 56% since 2010), it still represents just 4.2% of all higher education exports.
The UK’s universities should accept the challenge these figures pose, and make good on the prediction of the vice chancellor of Birmingham University that all ‘major global universities’ will be multi-campus within the next decade.
“Now is a critical time for academics to collaborate with their own travel management partners to make their mark internationally, and encourage the development of UK institutions overseas to continue to deliver world-class education to students”
Branch campuses could, and should, be one of the major methods by which UK universities look to broaden worldwide access to education. Offering students the benefits of a global education but with the quality and prestige of a UK degree, universities should capitalise on the demand and appeal of these qualifications while adding real value to students looking for a more international educational experience.
Not only this, but branch campuses offer a means for academics to cement the reputation of the UK overseas, retaining important teaching and research partnerships, as well as access to funding, to allow us to remain competitive on the global stage after Brexit. At a time when universities are crying out for clarity from the government over issues such as post-Brexit rights of EU nationals, it is important that they take all the steps they can to deliver certainty for themselves when it comes to international collaboration.
The UK has a proud history of working with academic partners across the globe. Now is a critical time for academics to collaborate with their own travel management partners to make their mark internationally, and encourage the development of UK institutions overseas to continue to deliver world-class education to students. Through strategically planned international outreach, academics should also reinforce that the UK remains open for business, a strong and viable research partner, and a world leader in developing the transnational education market.