Over the past couple of years, a number of U.S. universities have set up branch campuses or other extensive satellite ventures (or pulled out of failing ones) particularly in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa: NYU, Michigan State, Texas A&M, and more recently Duke University, just to name a few. Branch campuses can be successful, and meet the needs both of the U.S. institution and of the host country in which the offshore branch is located. Among the reasons U.S. universities have in setting up branch operations are the desire to extend the visibility of the institution globally, the possibility of generating additional revenue, and the opportunity to develop research or outreach opportunities that are site-specific to the host country. For the host country, the need to educate its citizens and develop its workforce, and the prestige of a partnership with a distinguished U.S. university, are among the key motivating factors. But branch campuses are also extraordinary complex endeavors; and they are costly, both in terms of dollars, time, and managing the expectations of a variety of constituencies, most importantly those of governing boards and of the public.
One of my priorities has been to develop the global presence of the University of Iowa by finding opportunities to enhance the impact of the outstanding teaching and research activities that are already going on at the University—in other words, to extend the already global reach of the UI through activities that have been and will continue to be core missions of the University. A branch campus might be one way of accomplishing this goal. Yet, there are also several other ways to accomplish this goal.
Developing the University of Iowa’s global footprint through key partnerships and linkages abroad is a strategy that can be effective and efficient, not the least because it is a way to leverage ongoing faculty activities. Our partnership with GenNext Education, which as of June, 2011, has established a UI liaison office at the International Knowledge Center in Bangalore, India, is an example of that strategy (and has already been discussed in this blog ). Having access to space and staff effort in India will help us take advantage of opportunities for faculty to develop research and revenue-generating activities there, to diversify our international student population by attracting more Indian undergraduates, and to help India reach its goal of expanding the educational opportunities available to its young citizens.
Another example is the Strategic Global Initiatives Award  program, which is intended to help defray costs associated with the development of activities or operations abroad to support faculty collaborations, exchanges, new or existing degree programs, and other collegiate or cross-collegiate initiatives. The 2011-12 awards went to Joe Reinhardt (College of Engineering) to develop a partnership with Yonsei University in Korea, expanding from a base in Biomedical Engineering, and to Bernard Sorofman and Barry Carter (College of Pharmacy) to strengthen the connections between the UI and Haiphong Medical University in Vietnam. More on these awards will be announced this week.
International Programs is the repository for all international linkages and partnerships, whether they be to develop articulation (2+2; 4+1; etc.) programs, research partnerships, student exchanges, or any other activity. There are many ways such a database could be useful. UI faculty traveling on University business might want to connect with already-existing partners to help make their visit more productive. Iowa businesses thinking of expanding in a particular location overseas might find advocates for their project in existing UI partners at that location. Currently, anyone can search the database by institutional name, country, or purpose; but I’m sure there are ways we can enhance the functionality of the database for UI faculty, students, staff, and community members.
I look forward to hearing back from you about how we can make this resource even better.
Downing Thomas, Dean of International Programs