GW’s international community is made up of about 4,000 international students from more than 130 countries. The University doesn’t struggle with bringing international students to D.C., but it hasn’t yet been successful at building GW campuses in other parts of the world.
GW has attempted to open stand-alone universities abroad in the past. The University planned to open an international campus in Beijing, but canceled the project in 2014 because the plan was costly and overly ambitious. Despite GW’s failure, other schools have been successful in establishing foreign campuses. GW’s strategic plan views globalism as a priority, but the University’s current internationally focused undergraduate program – the global bachelor’s degree program – doesn’t offer the diversity in subject matter to enable engagement in a meaningful cultural exchange across multiple disciplines. GW’s partnership with Fudan University is a good start, but when compared to the initial proposal for a global campus, the program doesn’t have the worldwide impact that an international campus would.
Opening a research university in a dynamic part of the world, like China or the Persian Gulf, would provide GW students with an opportunity to experience an international education and would give international students an opportunity to access a U.S. education in a region of growing importance. Given the University’s desire to make sure students think globally, GW should revisit the idea of opening a stand-alone university abroad.
As a political science major who has studied Arabic, I know that having an global campus could improve the quality of international research and encourage students to embrace an education that incentivizes global cultural awareness. Furthermore, locating the campus in either China or the Persian Gulf would ease the burden of getting government funding to fund the campus.
Building an international campus would do more for GW than just expand international students’ access to a high-quality liberal arts education and increase its reputation: GW would be building on its strengths. The University has top-rated international affairs and political science programs, and exporting these would help boost the University’s international reputation. Officials could create more research positions and cultural exchanges between students in Foggy Bottom and an international campus. While building an international campus might sound expensive, eventually these universities could be a source of revenue. Additional income from students, especially in wealthy regions, could help distribute costs for institutional expenses that could then be shared between campuses and with more tuition-paying students.
Officials should look to countries that have the funds and interest to finance some of the initial costs of opening a new university – which would save GW from the problems it has run into before. Government officials in Abu Dhabi have been eager about attracting foreign educational investments. They subsidized the construction of New York University’s global campus, for instance.
GW should also try to establish a university where the campus could act with academic autonomy from the host government in order to maintain academic integrity and independence that is vital in the western-style academic system. NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus is a “cultural free zone” that loosens some of the most restrictive laws regarding freedom of expression in the United Arab Emirates. Similarly, at NYU Shanghai, NYU students use virtual private networks to penetrate firewalls in China and access the unmonitored and unrestricted internet.
NYU’s decision to build in the UAE makes sense – the Emirates are some of the more progressive Gulf states. While NYU’s efforts abroad are the most well-known, other schools could function as models as well. Carnegie Mellon, Virginia Commonwealth, Texas A&M, Cornell, Northwestern, Georgetown universities and the Rochester Institute of Technology have all established branches of their universities in the Persian Gulf, largely due to the generous funding available from host governments. Many of the institutions have cited the opportunities to conduct research, send American students for study and take part in the international community as primary reasons for opening international campuses.
GW’s global campus should be located in a country accessible to all kinds of students. Classroom diversity at a global campus is a vital part of creating a vibrant international experience that effectively promotes globalism. NYU’s Shanghai campus only draws half of its student body from China, with the rest coming from dozens of countries around the world. NYU’s Abu Dhabi campus is even more diverse, with 14 percent and 13 percent of the student body being Emirati and American, respectively.
Pushing for a stand-alone international university expands the GW’s global influence and ensures that thousands more students from every part of the world can get GW educations.
Kendrick Baker, a junior double-majoring in political science and economics, is a Hatchet columnist. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.