Kleibert, Bobée, Rottleb & Schulze (2020) Global Geographies of Offshore Campuses

Our report “Global Geographies of Offshore Campuses” presents new insights into the geographies of offshore campuses on the global, the country and the city scale.

The report does not only show the dynamics of offshore campus investment, an uninterrupted rise in the number of physical presences and an increasing di­versification of universities’ countries of origin as well as their locations abroad. It also carves out some of the finer-grained geographies of offshore campuses as ur­ban phenomena but also as part of governmental and private sector projects that cluster universities in transnational education zones.

Kleibert, J., Bobée, A., Rottleb, T. & Schulze, M. (2020): Global Geographies of Offshore Campuses. Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space.


  • There are 487 offshore campuses (physical presences of foreign degree-awarding higher education institutions) globally, with at least 14 more planned to open soon.
  • Offshore campus growth has been continuously strong since 1989 with on average double-digit growth figures until 2009 and a lower growth over the last ten years. In total, 58 offshore campus closures occurred, primarily over the past fifteen years.
  • Most campuses stem from higher education institutions in France (122), the US (105), and the UK (73), followed with some distance by Australia and Russia (both 19). Over time, we see a diversification of sending countries. The share of the five major exporters shrank from 90% in 1990 to 70% in 2010.
  • Most exporting higher education institutions are from the US (61), the UK (46), and France (29). Many only set up one or two campuses, but some higher education institutions form large international campus networks with up to 34 offshore campuses, in particular from France.
  • Offshore campuses are located primarily in three regions: Europe, the West Asia and North Africa region (“Middle East”) and East and Southeast Asia. The main destination countries for offshore campuses are China (67), the United Arab Emirates (44), Singapore (19), Malaysia and Spain (both 17). Campuses are not solely exported from the Global North to the Global South. European countries and cities feature prominently as importers as well as exporters of campuses, in particular the cities of London and Paris.
  • Offshore campuses are highly concentrated in few major cities, most importantly Dubai (29), Singapore (19), Shanghai (15), London and Doha (both 12). In several cases, one city accounts for a significant share of all offshore campuses (Dubai has 66% of all the United Arab Emirates’ and London 80% of the UK’s total offshore campuses).
  • Clusters of offshore campuses are formed as part of explicit inward investment strategies of “transnational education hubs”, for instance, Education City (Qatar), Dubai International Academic City (United Arab Emirates), EduCity Iskandar (Malaysia) and Uniciti Education Hub (Mauritius). While only around 10% of all offshore campuses worldwide are located in these transnational education zones, these projects often attract special global attention.

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