International branch campus

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An international branch campus (IBC) is a type of foreign educational outpost which has been established in a country other than the one where the home (primary) campus exists. There is no common definition of IBC, but the three most widely used come from several reports issued by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), McBurnie and Ziguras's book Transnational Education: Issues and Trends in Offshore Higher Education, and Lane and Kinser's book, Multinational Colleges and Universities: Leading, Governing, and Managing International Branch Campuses. They all agree that an IBC is an entity that is located in a country other than home campus, has a physical presence in the host country, is at least partly owned by the home institution, and from which the students can earn degrees in the name of the home institution.

This trend to establish branch campuses overseas is growing rapidly with the number of international branch campuses doubling to 162 in the three years leading up to 2009.[1]


Educational institutions have been establishing offshore campuses, which would be recognized by the OBHE as international branch campuses, since the 1990s. Prior to this, some universities from the United States set up campuses offshore starting in the 1950s. These campuses though were not established for the same reasons as they are today; instead they were set up to provide their own students with the option of studying aboard while also providing a place for United States military personnel to study while abroad.[2]

An important factor which saw the number of offshore campuses expand during the 1990s is based around the forces of globalization. Globalization has profoundly influenced higher education as it, like the business sector, has attempted to take advantage of a world that was becoming increasingly more interconnected, by expanding their market and influence overseas.[3][4]

One development which was of particular significance to the globalization of education was the finalization of the Uruguay round of trade talks in 1995, which saw the creation of the body which monitors and promotes free trade, the World Trade Organization (WTO). The Uruguay round also saw the creation of new trade agreements, where were: the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The significance of these trade agreements was that they expanded the idea of free trade from simply trading in goods, to include trading in services also.[3]

These trade agreements laid the foundation for universities to establishing campuses in other countries as they helped remove many of the obstacles and costs involved in undertaking these activities. Initially though, growth in the number of new IBCs being established during the 1990s began quite conservatively. However after the year 2000, things begun progressing much more quickly, especially within the Middle East and South East Asia.[5] Of these campuses being set up overseas, most of the home institutions are based within the United States, with Australia having the second highest proportion of offshore campuses. Part of the reasons for such a huge increase recently is because of the interest from host countries in attracting large numbers of universities to establish branch campuses within their countries. For example, in 2003 Dubai set up "Knowledge Village" as a free trade zone where educational institutions are able to set up operations without having to pay taxes or royalties and without having to build any infrastructure.[3]

The expansion of IBCs and the establishment of free trade educational centers such as the Knowledge Village show that there is a real interest today for governments and the private sector to invest in knowledge-based industries. It is a trend that relates to the rise of the "knowledge society," where there is a high demand for qualified individuals with technical knowledge to drive economic growth.[6]


There are a number of criticisms targeted at the establishment of IBCs within host nations. Some see the venture as a form of cultural imperialism where foreign bodies are given control over local educational systems leaving the local government unable to exert control. Also since the whole enterprise is geared towards providing education opportunities to those who can afford it, there are many legitimate concerns about the equitability of access to the educational services offered by IBC’s within the host countries.[5]


  1. ^ Maslen, Geoff. "Huge Expansion in Overseas Campuses." University World News,
  2. ^ Rumbley, Laura E, and Philip G Altbach. "International Branch Campus Issues." Center for International Higher Education (2007),, Retrieved Monday 23 August.
  3. ^ a b c Spring, Joel. Globalization of Education: An Introduction. New York & London: Routledge, 2009.
  4. ^ a b McBurnie, Grant, and Chistopher Ziguras. "The International Branch Campus." Institute of International Education,
  5. ^ Altbach, Philip G., and Jane Knight. "The Internationalization of Higher Education: Motivations and Realities." Journal of Studies in International Education, 11, no. 3-4 (2007): 290-305.