The emergence of global universities




In the quest for a global perspective on higher education, global universities – entities with multiple campuses offering the same or varied programs – have become a powerful force.

For some, what began as a branch or satellite campus experiment to cater for the interests of curious overseas students has grown into a global entity with a presence in more than one country or even across continents.

Each campus, whether it offers a parallel academic experience or a specific program locally, caters to the interests of students enrolled to study abroad and, increasingly, serves the interests and needs of local students on these campuses.

Looking at international education frameworks, we looked at over 20 institutions that collectively represent over 100 campuses, which helps us better understand the benefits and challenges of this type of business.

These institutions include well-known entities such as New York University and lesser-known but very successful programs such as ESCP Business School. While large universities – many of which are based in the United States – focus on the delivery and services of undergraduate programs, some of the more innovative concepts are at the postgraduate degree level or focus on specialized programs. for leadership.


Curtin University, a global university founded in Australia, is a prime example of the global presence strategy.

Knowing that the goals of a global university are to strengthen education and build stronger international communities, especially within the current global dynamics, multi-campus models have clear advantages. Through the diversity on any campus, students learn to move between cultures and learn to work in a complex multicultural environment.

Having a formal institutional perspective creates a coordinated shared vision that drives the structure and ensures a consistent quality of academic delivery and student experience. The institution can cultivate a shared identity and integrated community across campuses for students and, beyond, for alumni around the world.

Students – and parents – appreciate the integrated curriculum that crosses campuses, making them part of an international and intercultural community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this integrated control was crucial as it allowed students to stay in the country while participating in an international program. As the challenges of student travel and immigration persist, global universities offer the opportunity to stay local and be global.

Speaking about the pandemic, Professor Seth Kunin, Assistant Vice Chancellor, International, Curtin University, said that “one of the strengths of the Curtin model is that each campus has created its own online material for its own. students. It worked really well and the students appreciated their original teacher and their learning … they recognized that it was personalized for them.

In addition, a global university with centralized management guarantees an integrated curriculum based on a common core taught at each site.

ESCP Business School students access the same academic content for a given program, by touring the locations, each with a specific pedagogical approach: a critical thinking approach in Paris; a theoretical approach in Berlin; a gamification approach in London; a humanist approach in Turin; a mixed approach in Madrid; and, in Warsaw, a contextualized approach to the issues studied. For professors, the global approach allows them to travel to campuses and develop research beyond borders.

According to Professor Leon Laulusa, Executive Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs and International Relations at ESCP Europe, their model benefits students more by “having an international faculty but locally anchored.” [that] brings a unique multicultural approach to our study programs. The multi-campus model also allows our student services (career services, job fairs, etc.) to operate at local and federal level, with in-depth knowledge of local, European and international markets.

In addition, local communities encourage the establishment of learning centers, whether it is a full campus or a satellite operation, even to the point of providing funding. Another source of funding can be private or corporate supporters of international cooperation.


Although the global university model has demonstrated several benefits for students, faculty, and institutions, it is still a relatively new concept. Until recently, only multinational companies with significant resources were able to manage an integrated operation across borders and across multiple sites. As educational institutions assume a leadership role in a global context, at least three challenges arise.

First, global universities must establish local and international credibility for each campus by obtaining legal entity and accreditation status in the country. The complexities of local laws, especially when it comes to an educational institution, can be intimidating and almost overwhelming for a foreign entity. The details of accreditation vary widely depending on the focus of the institution as well as the educational setting in a given region.

As Laulusa confirms: “The main challenges lie in coordination and harmonization at both federal and local level and the need to comply with educational rules and legal requirements which differ from country to country. The key to meeting these challenges is hybrid governance, at the federal and local levels.

Second, culture matters. Providing a local experience can be difficult if the campus is modeled after the founding institution in another country. Incorporating local cultural concepts and awareness throughout teaching, learning and what it means to support active citizenship within the community is a constant effort. Depending on the physical and academic structure, students may feel isolated on a campus built abroad if there is not enough effort to promote interaction with the local community.

Third, relationships are paramount. Strong stewardship and communications are needed to disseminate and perpetuate a shared vision. While having a unified concept that spans the campuses of a global institution can be a strength, it is easily weakened without strong support from local leadership in each location.

Measures of success

The review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provides a framework for comparing successes across educational institutions. Global universities are positioned to succeed through traditional educational measures and in ways that were not possible in the past with single campus institutions.

SDGs 4, 5, 8 and 16 are all fostered by international educational opportunities such as those offered by global universities, as we mentioned in part one of our series.

Specifically, SDG 4 – Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – is fostered by providing comparable education across borders, often improving the quality of education. education through an intercultural component.

This expands students’ access to local communities across the neighboring campus and increases options for students to have an international experience. In addition, global universities have the opportunity to provide education for older students who wish to continue their studies, further develop their skills or learn throughout their lives.

Global universities are also important for achieving SDG 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. Strong educational institutions are essential for economic growth because they train the next generation of talent.

Global universities bring a greater perspective to economic needs wherever they have a local presence. Their cross-cultural and local understanding of students makes them in a good position to support them when they graduate and to contribute beyond campus.

A strategic approach to engaging current students in efforts to build a lifelong affinity as alumni is best practice around the world. Global universities would be well served by offering a formal invitation for students to join their alumni association.

From 2020, when ESCP students register, they are automatically members of the Alumni Association. By creating an inclusive body of students and alumni – their brand ambassadors – they also expand everyone’s opportunities for full and productive employment: the employment rate of university graduates is close to 100% six months after graduation.

In short, global universities are already a powerful force in higher education and are poised to expand with new campuses and other institutions going global. The model, however, faces competition from the rapidly expanding educational networks that are forming. The third part of this series will examine the strengths and challenges of the network model.

Gretchen Dobson is a global engagement strategist, author and scholar with 28 years of experience on six continents. Kathy Edersheim is president of Impacts, an organization of experts in international alumni relations, community development and leadership training that provides advice to universities and member organizations. This is the second in a four-part series on international educational models. The first part is found here.



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