Published on 2014/06/17

International Branch Campuses Bring Graduate Education to the World

International Branch Campuses Bring Graduate Education to the World
The IBC helps to deliver a high-quality graduate learning experience to geographically-dispersed students.
At the invitation of the Qatar Foundation, a non-governmental organization with the mission to turn Qatar into a knowledge-based economy by 2030, Texas A&M University brought a portion of our engineering school to Doha, its capital, to educate future engineers. A major component of that educational experience is responsive research: direct and applicable research that answers the pressing issues that affect Qatar and the region, as well as global grand challenges that will enable broad positive global changes.

Graduate education drives research within a university. One way to reach more potential students is to expand the main campus to accommodate more students. This expansion must include more classrooms in which to teach them, more labs in which to train them and more money with which to fund their studies. While those actions would definitely attract more applicants, there are many potential applicants who cannot leave their part of the world to fulfill their postgraduate goals.

When a university invests in an international branch campus (IBC), it is providing its unique educational experience to a group of students who would otherwise be unrepresented in the research communities. This inherent diversity of students brings a breadth of varied experiences which, combined with fundamental academic rigor, creates an environment that generates new knowledge and advances the application of established research.

In addition to enriching the experience of the graduate student at the branch campus, collaboration between the main campus, graduate students and faculty at the branch campus also broadens the educational experience of those on the main campus. Through programs such as study abroad or yearlong graduate research assistantships, students enrolled at the main campus have a second home at the IBC and gain valuable international and hands-on research experience that help solve issues important to the region. Students enrolled at the IBC likewise can visit the main campus to work or study with fellow graduate students there, bringing their unique perspectives. This international collaboration carries forward as the graduate students receive their graduate degrees and enter industry or academia.

Another value proposition of an IBC is the role of the local industry. Geographic proximity to industry is a critical component of a graduate program to ensure a rich educational experience. Industry and academic experts collaborate to solve practical challenges and produce new ideas toward meaningful regional research issues. The results of these new ideas can be applied throughout the world, which can also contribute to the preeminence of the main campus and the IBC. Graduate students participating in these research activities are better equipped to address the grand challenges of the future and, as a result, will be more marketable to potential employers.

A greater diversity of students, more international collaboration and regionally important research involving local industry all allow for a richer graduate educational experience to the benefit of both campuses.

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Readers Comments

Julie F 2014/06/17 at 11:12 am

In theory, an IBC can be valuable for students of both campuses; in practice, it’s more likely that the extension campus generates revenue for the main campus. I would like to know how many students actually take advantage of exchange programs, research opportunities abroad and so on. It’s one thing to say that having campuses in two countries allows for a diversity of perspectives, but to actually practice that type of cross-pollination is another, far less developed activity for most institutions.

Madison E 2014/06/17 at 2:51 pm

I recently completed a master’s program while studying part time. My college has an international branch campus and I was able to do a three-week study program there right before I finished my program. I like the point Mercer makes about the value of these exchange opportunities. I was able to connect with others working in my field halfway across the world and read some of their research. I hope they, in turn, got some value from our interactions.

Greg A Smith 2014/06/17 at 2:52 pm

I would say that it can be difficult for a part-time graduate student to do an exchange if the institution does not have flexible arrangements. Most exchanges take place over a term, but I was only able to take three weeks off from my job. Thankfully, my institution allowed me to complete a shortened exchange, provided I sorted out the logistics myself (finding accommodation, arranging research meetings, etc.) It took a bit of effort and planning on my part, but it was doable.

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