Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Track E: The view from over here: Branch campuses and their role in the development of Middlesex as a global education provider

Link to abstract
Presenter: Dr Lois Smith 

Dr Lois Smith is Head of the MA Education Programme, and Teaching and Learning Coordinator at Middlesex University, Dubai. The aims of Lois’s workshop were to look at branch campuses’ perceptions of teaching & learning and to raise awareness of their place in a ‘global’ University (Middlesex). She pointed out that whilst Trans-National Education (TNE) tends to have a ‘hub & spoke’ approach, with fly-in, fly-out faculty, Middlesex has gone beyond that model and established full offshore campuses in Mauritius and Dubai.

The first question posed to the workshop attendees was “What does Middlesex as a ‘global’ University mean to you?” (This led to some discussion of what actually constituted global & how it differed from ‘international’ – some definitions were offered but no agreement reached & that one will run and run.) Some responses to the question included the observation that individuals at the Hendon ‘chalk face’ don’t really sense the ‘global’ until they actually encounter colleagues from the branch campuses. It was pointed out that those involved in the VLE are well aware of the global nature of the University but only in a ‘virtual’ sense. There was general agreement that London is somehow ‘Head Office’ and the campuses’ awareness of each other is very unbalanced – i.e. branch campuses are far more aware of London than vice versa.

Lois asked us then to consider academic standards & quoted Wilkins (2011) who found that 73% of UK international students felt quality to be higher in the UK than in branch campuses. This, she added, was a common perception. The next question was “How are Academic standards maintained at branch campuses?” The two questions were put to staff at Mauritius and Dubai & we were shown their responses on video.

Summary of staff responses on the ‘global’ nature of Middlesex:
  • Students from all over the world
  • Multi-cultural faculty and students
  • Students learn how to deal with diverse cultures
  • Many nationalities give a ‘global’ vibe
Summary of staff responses on maintaining quality:
  • Staff apply ‘expected’ standards (Lois pointed out branch campuses would like to be more involved in setting those standards)
  • Staff try to avoid dumbing down and maintain rigour
  • Appraisal designed to keep standards high
  • Emphasis on CPD
  • Assessment procedures clear & transparent
  • Co-ordinate with London colleagues to maintain high standards
  • Many exams marked in London (some discussion that this could be a two-way process)
  • Staff keep up to date with latest developments in subject matter and pedagogy
There was a sense that the branch campus staff ‘deferred’ to Hendon rather than the other way round. The next video showed Dubai and Mauritius students’ responses to two questions: “Why did you choose Middlesex?” and “How are standards maintained?”

Summary of student responses:
  • Getting a British education was key factor
  • Diversity of staff and students
  • Strong identity with a British university but also having a global reach
  • Felt the combination of a British degree and an international context made them more employable
  • Quality maintained by having the same academic standards as London.
In conclusion, Lois summed up by emphasising that branch campus colleagues see themselves as part of a British and a global University and are acutely aware of their own role in upholding and developing the international reputation of Middlesex.

Wilkins, S. and Huisman, J. (2011). International student destination choice: the influence of home campus experience on the decision to consider branch campuses. Journal of Marketing for Higher Education, 21 (1), pp. 61-83.

Celia Cozens, CLTE 

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