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International campuses on the spur

International branch campuses, although a relatively new phenomenon, have experienced significant growth during the past decade. According to a recently published report by the Observatory of Borderless Higher Education (OBHE), the number of branch campuses worldwide has risen by 43 percent in the last three years alone (from 82 in 2006 to 162 in 2009). The rise involves an increasing number of source as well as host countries. So far, higher education institutions from 22 countries have established branch campuses abroad. The majority of these still originate from English speaking nations, with the US strongly in the lead with 49 percent of the total, followed by Australia (9%) and the UK (8%). However, a number of new source countries such as Lebanon, Malaysia, South Korea and Switzerland have started to establish campuses abroad. The most important host country is the United Arab Emirates (hosting 25% of all branch campuses), with China in second position (9%) and Singapore in third (7%).

The directions of branch campus development, the report concludes, are starting to change. The provision of branch campuses from developed to developing countries (North to South) remains the rule – accounting for 51 percent of the total supply. Nevertheless, provision among developed nations (North to North) has risen and now makes up 30 percent of the total. Last but not least, a new trend is the growth in South to South provision, with countries such as India and Pakistan now standing side by side with Chile, Iran and Lebanon, as providers.

On an increasingly competitive global market the future spread of this form of higher education will depend on careful consideration of a number of factors, such as the costs and risks involved in exporting local programmes, the changing regional demands for higher education and countries’ ability to provide the best infrastructure for branch campus development.