American Universities Abroad
Did you know that our very ownWhartonSchoolhas been setting up a branch in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)? A number of top American universities, including NYU, MIT, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, and Northwestern, and already set up or in the process of setting up branches in either the UAE orQatar. Why would these universities set up branches abroad? I can think of three reasons: money, prestige, and student interest.
According to the New York Times, NYU received a $50 million Emirati donation and then planned its establishment of a branch in the UAE. I have no doubt that the rest of the schools on the list above also received generous donations from the UAE orQatarin return for setting up branches abroad. Additionally, I don’t think it makes monetary sense not to set up branches abroad because the revenue from donations and full-tuition-paying students are probably sufficient to maintain the facilities, faculty, and staff at these branches. Therefore, the universities can take full advantage of the other benefits of having branches abroad. Money can’t be the only reason though, right? Penn and the other schools already have millions or billions of dollars in endowment, so there has to be something more to this.
I think that the prestige of being pioneers of American universities abroad is the main reason that schools like Wharton are setting up these branches. These schools want to boast to prospective students and donating alumni that they are unique and have branches abroad. I predict that we will see more and more branches of American universities outside of theU.S.in the near future because they are pure prestige boosters and money makers. A potential problem that may arise with these branches in the future, though, is that as more and more schools venture abroad, the prestige and novelty will decrease. If this happens, I predict three potential outcomes: top tier American universities will no longer expand abroad, lower tier American universities will try to flood the foreign education market, and foreign countries will take advantage of their newly, American educated population and start new universities. A combination of all these outcomes, I believe, is highly probable.
Something worth mentioning is that not all of the American university branches abroad offer the same opportunities as the mother universities. For example, dorm living, courses offered, and student organizations may not be offered at these branches or at least not to the extent that they are in theU.S.These universities are generally tailored to fit the native population, but can still Americanize the students. For example, some foreign branches in the UAE don’t have coed classes or classes on Friday or Saturday, while other branches offer “pajama day, foosball, dorm life, and bake sales.” (Hadl,New YorkTimes)
Finally, the foreign interest among students to attend American universities is extremely high and competitive. In fact, many students, if they have the resources to do so, travel far from their homes in order to be prepared to attend an American or British university and obtain Advanced Placement or an International Baccalaureate. Bringing the university opportunities to these students makes their interests more possible to fulfill. Sara Hamdan, of the New York Times, gives an example of a young woman in the UAE who wanted to attend a university either in theU.S.or UAE and said, “Why would I go abroad, if I can get the same degree, with the same access to quality, here?” I would guess that most of the students in these foreign branches feel the same way.
The future of American universities abroad is somewhat a mystery. I suspect that there will be an increase in foreign branch development, but, at the same time, there may be an eventual oversaturation of the market and development of new universities. Either way, these branches are a great way for foreign students to be able to stay close to home, while obtaining a quality education.