NYU, with outposts in Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Singapore, Tel Aviv, and Abu Dhabi is on it’s way to becoming the Starbucks of higher education. Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern and CMU each have a franchise in the desert sands. Beyond the dunes, over the seas, in the utter east, one will find Yale, Johns Hopkins, MIT and Georgia Tech. This interest in setting up shop anywhere east of Pirate Alley is not confined to US universities. UK and  Australian universities have been trying as well.

Many follow in the footsteps of B-schools. INSEAD, Chicago’s GSB (I know, I should say Booth, but the acronym BSB seems insulting), Duke’s Fuqua (say it like a Canadian and it is insulting) and Kellogg had already established outposts and alliances on distant shores at least a decade earlier.

Why the lust to go global? Particularly in locations that espouse values inimical to free inquiry. Please, no answers that juxtaposes `global’ and `interconnected’. Lets try a couple of others.

1) Its important to expose students and faculty to the wider world.

OK. One could achieve this in ways that do not require building campuses elsewhere. Choosing to admit students from around the world. Encouraging students to spend an extended period abroad at a foreign University or College. Selecting faculty from around the world. Supporting and encouraging research with an international dimension.

2) Maintain or increase share of able students, faculty and attractive employment opportunities.

If Universities are platforms for matching students, faculty and employers, then it helps to be close to where there are the deepest pool of able students, attractive employment opportunities etc. If one believes these pools will be located in India and the PRC, say, then it would make sense for a University to buy an option in the form of a satellite campus. If the bet comes out right, one should expect the University to pick up and move entirely to the satellite campus. If the intellectual center of the World is to shift east, why not move with it? Perhaps, in a score of years, Yale will call Madras (oops Chennai) home rather than New Haven. A homecoming of sorts!

3) $$$$$

Galbraith once described the crusaders this way:

Beneath the mantled cross beat hearts firmly attuned to the value of real estate.

Something similar can probably be said of those who lead our Universities. If we have reached the upper limit of fees that can be charged (any more and we switch from becoming teachers to concierge’s…….are we there yet?), then, the only way to grow revenue to feed the search for knowledge is to increase the volume of students. How is one to do that without sacrificing quality? Go east, where the bodies are. In some cases, autarchs, plutocrats and apparatchiks will defray the costs of doing so.

Any other reasons?