Universities must address risks to their integrity when embarking on overseas branch campuses and collaborations, and should involve their faculty throughout the planning, delegates at the Worldviews conference agreed.
While institutions normally had other motivations beyond immediate profit from such ventures, there were still financial risks, and risks to their reputations and brands, speakers in the session “Financial opportunity over institutional integrity? The accountability of university participation in branch campuses and overseas hubs” agreed.
Responding from the floor, David Porreca, president of the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, cited the example of Waterloo’s failed venture in Dubai, which had been developed and closed “under a veil of secrecy” from the faculty. The university’s money invested in the project, including to recruit staff, had “disappeared down a hole”.
The branch campus was closed last autumn after three years of operation, having recruited just 142 students, against a target of 500.
The faculty association was not disappointed when it foundered, because of the compromises involved, for example, for lesbian and gay faculty, students and staff, Porreca said.
“Any gay person who gets off a plane in the United Arab Emirates is committing a crime, subject to prison and deportation. No one could claim credibly from the administration that the same set of policies and procedures could operate in Dubai as they can at the home campus. With that in mind, we cheered the closure.