International branch campuses: Even more developments

The Observatory’s new report on international branch campuses (IBCs), entitled ‘International Branch Campuses: Data and Developments’, was released on 12 January. Annex D of the report is a list of 37 planned campuses that were identified, most of which are due to open this year or in 2013.

In the intervening six weeks, the Observatory has come across more planned branch campuses in a range of countries, including Cyprus, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, Thailand and UAE. 


The University of Central Lancashire will establish the first IBC in Cyprus. The campus will be built in Pyla, a village located within the UN Buffer Zone and currently the only settlement on the island with a mixed Greek and Turkish population. Taught subjects will include business and management, law, computing and mathematics.

UCLan Cyprus will open in 2012, with a target of 5,000 students from Cyprus and surrounding countries. Cypriots traditionally study in Greece, where approximately 10% of university places are reserved for Cypriots, and in the UK. According to HESA stats, 2.8% of non-UK students at UK higher education institutions in 2009-10 were from Cyprus.


Germany has not been active in IBCs – the Observatory’s report identified only one German branch campus in Chile. But that may change in the future. Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin) announced in January that it will set up a campus in Gouna, Egypt, starting operations in October 2012.

The campus will be a non-profit operation, run in partnership with Orascom Hotels and Development, an Egyptian hotel group. TU Berlin Campus Gouna will offer accredited Master’s degrees in technology-related subjects such as energy engineering, water engineering and urban development. Courses will be taught by TUB academic staff in English.





Ningbo University
, China, will set up a campus in Florence, to open in September 2012. This is the second Chinese branch campus abroad, the first being Soochow University in Laos, and the first South-to-North operation coming from China. As noted in the Observatory’s report, South-to-North is here to stay and more are expected to launch over the next few years.

The project was negotiated at the local rather than the national level. According to University World News, Florentine officials said that there was no need for authorisation from the Italian government and the campus would not be regulated under Italian higher education law. This highlights two aspects of the Italian higher education system – a high level of devolution, with local authorities playing an active role in higher education policy, and a lack of flexibility at the national level. The mayor of Turin revealed in a recent interview with La Stampa that he wants to attract foreign universities and is in touch with American universities.

Ningbo’s campus in Florence will mainly target Chinese students, and the first courses will be in art and culture. Chinese students started coming to Italy only recently and now constitute the second-largest national group of students in the country. Italian commentators have also noted the forging of ties between Italy and China across many sectors, which can be interpreted in various ways in the light of the crisis in Europe and growing anti-European sentiment in Italy. Others point towards a closer relationship between China and the EU.


As reported by the New Straits Times in February, the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education has received 25 applications from foreign institutions wishing to set up campuses in the country. The newest operations are those of Reading and Heriot-Watt universities. There are already seven operational IBCs in Malaysia, mainly UK and Australian. There is no American IBC to date.



In September 2011 Jaipur National University from India signed an MoU with Perak EduCity, a new education hub overseen by the Malaysian State Economic Development Corporation. (Observatory members can see Jane Knight’s recent paper on education hubs HERE.) Jaipur National University is expected to invest MYR150m (£31m) and aims to attract 5-6,000 students from Malaysia and the region.

Prist International University, also from India, has signed a MoU with Perak EduCity to set up a campus in the region, investing MYR200m (£42m). The campus is due in 2014 and will offer degrees in medicine, nursing, arts, sciences, commerce and management, engineering, technology and law. According to the New Straits Times, the University of Salford is also negotiating with Perak EduCity. The state of Perak indicates that more foreign universities have been invited to set up campuses in Perak.


Thailand may be a new frontier for UK universities. The University of Central Lancashire announced in January that it will launch the UK’s first private university campus in Thailand in 2014. The campus will offer degrees in business, built and natural environment, engineering, creative and performing arts, and languages. UCLan is to invest £7.5m on the project; it has a target of 5,000 students within 10 years.

UAE - Dubai

Greece is in the grip of a devastating economic and political crisis and the Greek higher education system lies in tatters. However, Greek universities with exportable expertise in niche areas do have a chance to compete at the international level.

It was announced in February that the Agricultural University of Athens will establish a branch campus in Dubai in partnership with Hail Agriculture. The operation is expected to be launched in September and will be the first IBC of a Greek institution. It will be hosted in Dubai Knowledge Village and will award Greek degrees. Taught subjects will include biotechnology, nanotechnology, food preservation, agricultural and livestock science, with an emphasis on camel breeding.

For the future?

Other institutions have disclosed plans to establish branch campuses, without specifying the year or location. The Kellogg School of Management from Illinois has announced plans to open two branch campuses abroad, although no final decision has been made on the location. Potential targets include São Paulo, Shanghai and Beijing. The University of Wollongong, already based in Dubai, is proceeding with a plan to open a campus in Ahmedabad. In November the university signed an MoU with Gujarat NRE Coking Coal, an Indian mining company with mines in Australia, which will provide financial backing and political nous.

Adding these to the 37 already identified suggests an increase in the number of IBCs worldwide of 20% (to more than 240) over the next two years.

Alex Katsomitros