Harvard — December 1, 2011 2:57 pm

The Case for Harvard Abroad


The pervasive influence of globalization has touched education. Many American universities have started opening campuses in different countries in order to expand options to study abroad and to capitalize on the growing demand in many developing countries for quality institutions. Despite the fact that several of its peers have begun capitalizing on clear benefits of opening up campuses abroad, Harvard has remained woefully inactive.

The institutions opening campuses include the likes of NYU and, dare I say it, Yale. NYU has already set up a successful campus in Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). In addition to increasing revenue streams, NYUAD’s founding was accompanied by an increase in NYU students studying abroad. Such has been NYUAD’s success, NYU launched a new campus in Shanghai, which will open in 2013.

Should Harvard open a second campus? If so, where?

Yale, rather than opening up a whole new campus, has partnered with the renowned National University of Singapore (NUS). Yale-NUS College, which envisions integrating the “best” of the Western liberal arts experience College will enroll its first class 2013. Yale VP and Secretary Linda Lorimer stressed YNC will only aid in Yale’s “brand accretion.” She also pointed out that Singapore’s small population means that YNC will be able to cater to the local population and attract top students from countries such as India and China. NYUAD and Yale are visionary moves by these two American institutions to become global leaders in education. Both are shining examples of what Harvard could achieve.

It is clear that such considerations have been tossed around and that the university has recognized the need for at least greater encouragement to study abroad. Deans of the Law School and Business School have altered their curricula in light of the increasing globalization of law and business. Drew Faust also set up a working group to reexamine Harvard’s international presence.

But, many may caution Harvard from taking such an additional, bold move. It is true that there are many uncertainties associated with opening up a new campus.  Harvard would have to pick a location where regulations are relaxed to allow its professors freedom to publish as they please. As Jason Lane, a leading scholar on International Branch Campus development and professor at SUNY Albany, points out,  Harvard would also “run the risk of students thinking the foreign campus is worse than the other.”

But these worries can be assuaged through strategic planning. I recommend establishing a campus in India. Lane said the long-debated measure allowing foreign campuses to be established in India may soon pass. The heavy presence of English and India’s liberalism (in contrast to China’s) would allow a smoother transition. Problems of ensuring quality could be mitigated through adopting Yale’s strategy of partnering with a leading institution. Indian Institutes of Technology have incredibly brand-recognition in India. “Put Harvard, MIT and Princeton together, and you begin to get an idea of the status of IIT in India.” If Harvard were able to partner with an IIT, aiding in providing funding for research and integrating the liberal arts into the more traditional Indian style education, Harvard would gain access to a vast pool of extremely intelligent students and aid in the training of the region’s top leaders. Harvard has also begun to realize the world’s leaders have begun to rise through innovative ideas, as evidenced by their investment in the Harvard Innovation-Lab (Hi). Growth in India has stemmed largely from such private sector innovation. Through such steps, Harvard could create a truly global brand that transcends all borders.

As the world becomes further interconnected, Harvard cannot remain closed-off from the rest of the world and expectant people will always flock to its doors. Harvard going abroad would not dilute the treasured name, but demonstrate perceptive recognition that the world’s next great leaders will be those trained to lead the rising countries.

  • uh-oh

    This would be bucking a trend that sees the shrinking in importance of satellites campuses abroad: http://drezner.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/10/13/the_de_globalization_of_american_higher_education

  • Sam Finegold

    I think much of what this counter addresses could be avoided through a partnership. I agree that quality dilution is a concern and has caused problems. Partnering would reduce concern. That’s why I suggested pairing with IIT, whose incredible reputation would reduce the problems highlighted by the FP writer

  • Jonathan Yip

    I think Yale’s approach has significant problems–not in its ambition, but in its timidity. Why not issue Yale-NUS graduates full Yale degrees? Because they’re afraid it might damage the “brand” probably.

    But this is all backwards. The expansion shouldn’t be about “brand accretion;” it should be about student education and experience.

    This Atlantic piece is worth considering:

  • Horatio

    While I will not claim to have sufficient knowledge to fully evaluate the argument as a whole, this viewpoint seems reasonable. However, I would be very wary about your claim that IIT’s still necessarily have the same prestige in India as you say there is, especially considering the mass exodus of students from Indian universities into schools in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. The consensus is becoming much more negative:


    With that said, from a global perspective, we are dealing with universities that rarely get placed in the top 200 among the majority of global college rankings. It’d be difficult to imagine this contributing to grade accretion.

  • Horatio

    *It’d be difficult to imagine this contributing to brand accretion

  • Sam Finegold

    Hmmm…@Horatio. That is a worrying concern. However, it is still true that IITs have incredible students, as the source you linked demonstrates. Their acceptance rate is 1/50.

    The demand would likely not decrease if Harvard were to pair. If anything, Harvard pairing and bringing along its undeniably world-class faculty would then definitely improve upon the offerings of a solitary IIT.

  • Sam Finegold

    maybe it’s not abroad, but it still supports that the boundaries of the conventional university are expanding: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/nyregion/cornell-and-technion-israel-chosen-to-build-science-school-in-new-york-city.html?src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB

  • Sam Finegold

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