Offshore, onshore or just not sure?

Offshore, onshore or just not sure?

Offshore, onshore or just not sure?
As the onshore international student market continues to be suppressed by the ever-evolving manifestations of COVID-19, the heady lure of establishing offshore operations in potential growth markets in Asia is inevitably the fare of many universities and institutes of higher education boardroom discussions.

Setting up offshore
Establishing a successful offshore revenue pipeline and an international identity for your home-institution’s brand has much to be commended. And scoring a ‘first-in’ entry into an exciting new overseas market as a leading educational entity is a good and marketable bit of positioning.

If, as is increasingly the case with Australian Foreign Branch Campuses (FBCs), you can establish a viable operation in a country with a lower salary environment and cheaper running costs than found in Australia, you might even contemplate making huge savings by serving back online teaching, assessment, IT support, finance operations and even HR services to your parent institution.

Matters to consider before diving in
First, if your intention of going offshore is simply to support your domestic operations you might need to rethink your strategy. You are unlikely to reap significant benefits in the first 5+ years of operating.

Second, and sadly, all the due diligence in the world will not resolve traumatic economic, cultural and political turmoil around the globe.

Third, of course, achieving a steady intake of qualified, cashed-up students will be amongst the biggest challenges for a new FBC, but the demand for Australian qualifications, and access to migration to Australia, remains strong.

Educational Neo Colonialism
Our experience has been that host nations in emerging economies tend to want their top universities to be of their own nationality and making. Having FBCs taking the lion’s share of the available student market whilst purporting to be of ‘superior quality’ to local institutions is increasingly being viewed as neo (educational) colonialism.

Strategy short, legacy long
The elephant in the corner of the room is, of course, technology. Not if, but when education authorities can be assured that online providers have overcome the fraud which has plagued the perception of online degrees (unfairly in our opinion) then the costs and relevance of FBCs will begin to swiftly erode. Electronic proctoring and biometric technologies may soon be able to give the necessary assurances. Until then other blended approaches, currently being explored, may fill the gaps.


Emeritus Professor Jim Mienczakowski is currently a Higher Education Consultant.

Emeritus Professor Greg Whateley is currently Deputy Vice Chancellor at GCA.