Globe-trotting colleges branch out for growth, enrollment opportunity

Number of higher ed international branch campuses increases worldwide

International branch campuses continue to offer American colleges and universities opportunities in branding, enrollment and research. And overseas countries, as luck would have it, are often as eager to host as U.S. universities are to set up shop.

The number of international branch campuses worldwide—operated by both U.S. and foreign institutions—grew to 249 by the end of 2015, up 26 percent from the end of 2010, according to a study from the Cross-Border Education Research Team at the State University of New York at Albany and the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, an international think tank.

Exploding interest in higher ed, propelled by growing middle classes in Asia and Latin America, pushes secondary education to the top of many government agendas, says Jason Lane, associate professor and chair of the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership at SUNY Albany.

Countries with limited higher ed capacity are struggling to keep top students from leaving for foreign colleges, Lane adds. Available government dollars for higher ed spurred universities from 33 countries to open international branches, according to the study.

International branches in China are on the rise and growth potential is high in Latin America while activity has slowed in the United Arab Emirates, the study says.

Boosting American universities’ interest in Latin America are the easier logistics of operating an international branch campus in the same time zone, says Lane.

The promise of getting an American education on native soil encourages students to stay in their home countries. In turn, those governments hope graduates will remain at home and boost the local economy when they enter the workforce.

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