Document Details

Title Saudi Arabia funds and bans international branch campuses at the same time - what is going on?
Author Richard Garrett - Director, OBHE


In May, Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council, the appointed assembly that advises the King, rejected a proposal to permit branch campuses of foreign universities in the country. Those in favor argued that Saudi Arabia needs to offers its citizens a wider range of quality universities and more fields of study. Branch campuses of foreign universities were put forward as a way to complement the well-known government scholarship program that enables large numbers of Saudis to study abroad but is said to often produce culture shock, not least when students return home. For some students, enrollment in a foreign branch campus in Saudi might offer a better balance of international exposure and local culture. The ‘no’ camp countered that foreign universities baulk at gender segregation in the kingdom and argued that there is scant evidence from other countries that foreign campuses result in sufficient knowledge transfer.

International branch campuses (IBCs) aside, Saudi Arabia has a history of turning to foreign higher education models, individuals and institutions. How have these alliances fared over time? Is the Shoura Council smart to sideline IBCs? Do they have a point that it remains easier to count IBCs than judge their impact on the host country? And how does the ban on university IBCs square with the fact that a growing number of international non-university branch campuses have opened in the past three years, funded by the government?

Date 20/07/2015
Region(s) Middle East & Gulf States
Countries Saudi Arabia
Theme(s) Transnational Education (TNE) Models

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