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University of Utah Opens New Campus in South Korea

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by Ethan Kannel
University of Utah president Dr. David Pershing tours the high-tech facilities at the school's new international branch campus in Songdo, South Korea. Image: University of Utah

As of this semester, students from Utah can pay in-state tuition at the University of Utah’s new campus in South Korea at the Songdo Global University. School President David Pershing hopes to enroll 2,000 students in the next 6 years. Students can choose to major in psychology, social work, or communication.

The University of Utah is joining a growing number of schools in pursing an international branch campus (IBC). In 2006, there were only 82 IBCs, while today there are more than 200 around the world. Schools in the United States are the main origin of IBCs around the world with more than 80 campuses. Universities see IBCs as a way to gain a global reputation, increase revenue, and train a new and growing middle class in other countries.

IBCs have been so successful in Asia, and especially Korea, because of explosive growth in the number of students attending college. In 2010/2011 Korea had a 4.9% growth rate, the 6th highest in the world. There has also been a huge increase in American students studying abroad in Asia. From the 2000/2001 academic year to the 2010/2011 academic year, the number of American students studying abroad in Asia has grown by a total of 26,495 students, compared to just 3,338 more students going to the Middle East.

Opening an international branch campus can raise the profile of a school’s home campus and draw more international students to enroll at the flagship institution. Utah as a whole has seen strong growth in the number of Asian students coming to study there over the past few years, with more than 3,800 students from Asia studying there in 2012/2013, a 70% increase from 2006. Conversely, during the 2010/2011 school year Utah sent only 26 students to South Korea. By opening a University of Utah campus in South Korea, it is expected to drive up the number of Korean students who pursue higher education in Utah, as well as increasing the number of students from Utah who study abroad in South Korea.

Ethan Kannel is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a junior at Cornell University