Oct 29, 2014 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

With globalism an increasingly important imperative in contemporary political and economical landscapes, it’s not exactly a surprise that higher education is getting in on the trend. For many colleges and universities this means a push to enroll more international students as well as a commitment to enhanced exchange: receiving more students from overseas and sending students overseas in return. But globalism has also ushered in a new era in which higher education institutions are exporting their own educational opportunities to foreign students and markets in the form of international branch campuses (IBCs). Find your university abroad here.

What is an IBC?

An extension of a college or university to a secondary location, satellite campuses typically fall under the umbrella accreditation of the main campus and share organizational administration as well as some resources. While the origins of satellite campuses began domestically as a means to serve nontraditional students -- for example, those who were unable to travel -- the trend has come to represent something very different in recent years. Most notably: the boom of international branch campuses (IBCs).

While there’s no universal definition of an IBC, most authorities on the subject agree that these “foreign educational outposts” share the following characteristics:

  • they must have a physical location a country other than the location of the primary home campus
  • the home institution must have at least part ownership of the branch campus
  • degrees must be conferred in the home institution’s name


Bucking the Trend

During a time when traditional domestic branch campuses are on the decline -- due to the rise of technologically-enhanced quality distance courses along with a new focus on graduate programs -- IBCs are picking up momentum.

According to the University World News Global Edition, IBCs have experienced exponential growth: in 2002, only 35 of the current IBCs were in existence; by 2009, that number had risen to 162. In the years between 2006 and 2009, meanwhile, at least 49 new campuses were established while only five closed.

While the U.S. is dominant in the proliferation of offshore campuses, others have also capitalized on the opportunities. The United Arab Emirates claims the lion's share of IBCs: a full quarter of the world’s satellite campuses call the UAE home.

But IBCs don't just benefit home campuses. In fact, many of today's host countries -- particularly those in the Middle East and Southeast Asia -- court partnerships with universities from around the world in the hopes of gaining sought after status as an international higher education hub.


Four Benefits of Attending an IBC

We’ve talked about how the trend benefits both the home university and the host university, but what about students? Consider these four advantages of attending an IBC:

1. Increased Mobility

Students at IBCs have unprecedented access to programs across multiple satellite locations, as well as simplified mobility between them.

For example, at the European University School of Business, a triple-accredited, top-ranked international business school, students are strongly encouraged to participate in intercampus exchange at main locations in Geneva, Montreux, Munich and Barcelona, as well as through partnerships with schools in Spain, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Malaysia and China.


2. Academic Diversification

IBCs give students the opportunity to study in different learning environments while gaining access to new faculty, specialized coursework, academic program offerings, curricula, and research opportunities which may not be available on their home campuses. Students also gain new perspectives on educational and professional goals through this exposure.


3. Increased Cultural Awareness

Living and studying abroad -- alongside students from all over the world doing the same thing -- familiarizes students with people and customs of a new part of the world. They walk away with a new awareness of and appreciation for different ideas and value systems which can help widen personal and academic horizons as well as lead to increased understanding between cultures and communities.


4. Lifelong Connections

The connections made during college are lifelong; at IBCs, they also span continents and cross oceans.

In addition to fulfilling personal connections, IBC students graduate with a premier set of skills sought after by today’s employers. And while language abilities and cultural understanding may be particularly valuable in the business world, they -- along with other skills honed through study abroad, such as communication, teamwork and flexibility -- carry over into a broad range of careers and disciplines.


The Future of IBCs

What began as a drive by bottom line-minded colleges and university to generate more revenue through international tuition fees has since grown to transcend the financial. While money of course remains a factor, international students are an equal prize, garnering everything from higher rankings to leading edge in the highly competitive international higher education market. An international presence is important, but even more essential? High quality programs that engage and entice students.

As universities continue to evolve to meet the changing world while capitalizing on technological advancements, an increasingly diverse higher education environment can be expected. And while the physical classroom is not going anywhere anytime soon, many experts predict a continued shift away from the concept of one central home campus and toward a system of global network universities.

 Hult International Business School:

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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