'Leveraged footprints', 'dark clouds' and 'bleeding millions': perspectives on Australian universities' offshore campuses

Grant McBurnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Australia is a leading proponent of trade liberalisation, including education services. It is a major provider of fee-charging education to international students, both in Australia and offshore. This paper focuses on the three key motivations for Australian universities to establish offshore campuses - academic, financial, reputational - and considers their problematics from the perspective of the home country and the provider institution. Academic benefits include enhanced opportunities for student and staff mobility, international collegial interaction, the development of new or expanded curriculum material (to meet local needs) and research opportunities. Universities with an international footprint (as they sometimes call it) regard their presence abroad as enhancing their reputation, demonstrating that they are literally on the international map. In financial terms, Australian universities operating abroad have experienced mixed results, ranging from modest returns to massive losses. The progress of campuses has varied according to such factors as their funding sources, the acumen of their financial planning, the accuracy of their enrolment forecasts, the host country regulatory regime, the fate of their business partners, the popularity of their location and their disciplinary offerings. When programs are profitable and the surplus is ploughed back into the traditional academic activities of the university, there are numerous beneficial synergies between the commercial and public good roles of the institution. However, when offshore ventures lose money, tensions between commercial and academic priorities are underlined. Brief case studies are presented of Australian campuses operating in South Africa, Malaysia and Vietnam.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57 - 68
Number of pages12
JournalPerspectives in Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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