US Universities setting Outposts

US has been attracting the best and the brightest of the world for quite some time. US higher education has been an important part of that. NYT has an interesting article on the changes coming in the Higher Education landscapes of the world. The idea of expanding US Universities in other countries has been around and started picking up momentum in the last decade. Now this is becoming very active. The following represents a reasonably accurate situation as I know from my affiliation with multiple universities in multiple countries.

The American system of higher education, long the envy of the world, is becoming an important export as more universities take their programs overseas.

In a kind of educational gold rush, American universities are competing to set up outposts in countries with limited higher education opportunities. American universities — not to mention Australian and British ones, which also offer instruction in English, the lingua franca of academia — are starting, or expanding, hundreds of programs and partnerships in booming markets like China, India and Singapore.

And many are now considering full-fledged foreign branch campuses, particularly in the oil-rich Middle East. Already, students in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar can attend an American university without the expense, culture shock or post-9/11 visa problems of traveling to America.

One can see pros and cons of this both for US and for the recipient countries. I am one of those who are unsure about its effect on US education. I do feel that it will benefit the recipient countries. Whether US will benefit depends on many important factors — the most important is the global politics which is never certain.

In any case, this is an interesting ‘export’ from US and will increase the cultural dominance of US if things keep going in this direction. Many European universities are trying to do this and occassionally one hears about Indian universities, particularly IIT and IIM, but those are not yet significant compared to what is happening with US universities.

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