WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DO: HOW TO PROJECT YOUR INSTITUTION ABROAD? WITH WHOM? THE EXAMPLE OF UNIVERSITY OF WOLLONGONG

Creation of own campuses, association with local actors, subcontracting with local operators: each school or university will seek to widen its international presence while enhancing its own brand image. The University of Wollongong’s strategy has reasons to surprise the French observer, used to consider the strict separation between private and public, lucrative sector and nonprofit sector, as the main component of the university’s DNA.

Established in 1951 as an institution of the New South Wales University of Technology, and established as an autonomous institution in 1975, the University of Wollongong (UOW) is now a public university of approximately 22,000 students, including 9 faculties with research competencies. Despite this development and its quality, the notoriety of the UOW mainly remains to the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD).

Creating the first foreign university in Dubai

In 1993, the University of Wollongong opened an institution in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This first foreign academic institution to be recognized by the UAE government officially became a local private higher education institution in 2004 under the name University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD).

Today, the 4,000 students’ campus is located in Dubai Knowledge Park, a Dubai free zone dedicated to training institutions, while the United Arab Emirates is positioned as a hub for higher education.

UOWD offers undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral programs. Since all degrees awarded by UOWD are accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research of the Government of the United Arab Emirates, they are also audited by the Australian Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA). UOWD is an Independent university, but still an « entity » of UOW, offering a recognized quality of training.

But UOW did not stop there at this international uccess :  it has also deployed the concept in various ways, mainly in Asia.

Operational programs for large groups in the higher education industry

While UOWD was created by the UOW itself, UOW has also bet to partner with other types of players to increase its international presence. Taking advantage of the development of a private higher education industry, UOW offers four programs at INTI (International University & Colleges) campuses in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Subang Jaya. UOW keeps these programs in total control but operates wholly or partly offshore, as products offered by a commercial company.

International development is therefore based on a very different model from that the one used in Dubai: based on an industrial operator, the UOW offers programs abroad, but does not include this specific actor in its own organizational chart.

Other types of partnerships have been developed on this model: they are listed on the UOW website: http://www.uow.edu.au/future/international/UOW099867.html

Partner with a local university in the non-profit sector

With the association with the Community College of City Universality (CCCU), it is yet another model that is being implemented In 2015. The establishment created in 2004 by the City University of Hong Kong offers associate degree programs, ie short (generally 2 years) undergraduate degrees.

Since 2015, CCCU and UOW have created a formal alliance to emerge as a self-financing, not-for-profit niche-based institution and to promote an educational model that combines academic excellence with societal commitment. Like UOWD, CCCU is considered an entity of UOW.

Thus, what is most surprising in UOW’s international development is the diversity of strategies implemented to ensure the presence of the Australian university in important geographic areas. Some will see opportunism, others agility. Anyway the question is: how can the best of each institution be expressed in places and circumstances where opportunities emerge? UOW is an example of the awareness of the complexity of higher education today, as well as the multiplicity of possible and / or relevant social and economic models.


Illustration : Boscorelli.
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