This week’s readings, particularly the OECD Higher Education Programme: Approaches to Internationalisation and Their Implications for Strategic Management and Institutional Practice, A Guide to Higher Education Institutions, brought some practical guidance and insight on the challenges of implementing internationalization whereas, to date, we have focused more on the evolution and theory of the concept. I personally appreciated the guidance aspect of the readings, because tangible implementation strategies that have been tested and well formulated are key to internationalization initiatives succeeding. While the European models of higher education reviewed in An analytical framework for the cross-country comparison of higher education governance (academic self-governance, state-centered model and the market-oriented model) were interesting and their intersections are instructive for non-European regions as well, I am not focusing on them for this blog post.
Instead, I take a closer look at the international branch campus (IBC) phenomenon as I thought the OECD paper had more concrete details on how to actually implement a successful IBC in an off-shore setting. OECD suggests five actions for institutions to consider when contemplating off-shore campuses (see pp. 14-18). First, the “genuine interests” of stakeholders in the higher education institution as well as the host country must be considered. Not focusing on the host country can lead to gaps in understanding between the institution and host country and unsuccessful implementation. Second, the host country’s legal and regulatory environment must be thoroughly vetted and the compliance costs must be analyzed. Without this component, the very survival of an off-shore campus can be threatened. Third, sustainable business models must be applied taking into account main divers. Fourth, have a viable plan for quality faculty recruitment and retention. Fifth, regularly monitor quality.
The above mentioned actions to consider may help mitigate some of the pause and caution with which off-shore campuses are progressing due to some high-profile failures and an earlier desire to be first to market without careful consideration of the OECD guide’s review of strategic management and institutional practice. For example, see http://monitor.icef.com/2015/10/a-more-cautious-outlook-for-international-branch-campuses/ which discusses a recent survey of European universities which found that IBCs were the lowest priority among 15 prominent internationalization strategies but despite that figure, the number of branch campuses worldwide is rising although perhaps with greater awareness of the financial and quality assurance issues discussed in the OECD guide. To me, a highlight of the OECD guidance was the observation that “in starting up and operating an off-shore campus, experience has shown that it is better to start small and expand incrementally.” (p. 14). Interestingly, while India may not be fully willing to let IBCs infiltrate its own shores, I was surprised to learn that it seems to be taking the OECD guide’s advice to start small and expand one by one in bringing Indian branch campuses to other countries. (see http://www.obhe.ac.uk/what_we_do/news_articles_reports/news_analysis/na_2015/news_analysis_3_22jan15). Perhaps, India will be well served to learn lessons from its own regional off-shore expansion to allow for other countries to being IBCs to India with the above mentioned actions underpinning implementation.