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Operating International Branch Campuses in Education Hubs: A Case Study of a Consortium Model of Incheon Global Campus in Korea Public Deposited

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  • In recent decades, the concept of transnational higher education has flourished and international branch campuses (IBCs) have proliferated. Some countries have gone as far as designating areas as education hubs and have attracted foreign universities to operate branch campuses on their soils. While researchers have studied what motivates universities to establish IBCs and have examined operational challenges, limited literature exists on the dynamics of operating IBCs in education hubs and the relationships among the IBCs. This study explores how IBCs operate within the hub and what opportunities and challenges emerge from the consortium model. This is a qualitative case study of the Incheon Global Campus (IGC) in South Korea; an understudied education hub due to its recent development since 2012. Located within the Songdo International Business District in the city of Incheon, the IGC currently houses four IBCs from the United States and Belgium: SUNY Korea, Mason Korea, University of Utah Asia Campus and Ghent University Global Campus. Under the shared campus model, IBCs share facilities which are managed by the government-supported organization – IGC Foundation (IGCF). Twenty faculty, staff, and students were interviewed on their perceptions of the benefits and challenges of operating in this consortium model. Relevant documents and audiovisual materials were also analyzed for additional insights. This research uses Fligstein and McAdam (2015)’s field theory and Tjemkes, Vos and Burgers (2018)’s the strategic alliance model as a background conceptual framework. The finding suggests that the relationships among the IBCs are both collaborative and competitive. The level of interaction and collaboration varied among institutions due to difference in organizational goals, culture and the resources they possess. Some of the opportunities presented by the consortium include a reduction in the cost of the operation, promoting inter-organizational learning and enhancing reputation. Some challenges involve complex decision-making process, weakening competitive advantage, management complexity and a negative spillover effect in adversity. Nevertheless, the overall interactions among branch campuses were limited as IBCs prioritized their relationships to the home campus. These findings lead to a better understanding of the unique environment of education hubs where IBCs operate in a consortium. The current research shed light for higher educational institutions and government officials in all stages of educational hub development from idea conception to operation. Keywords: international branch campus, education hub, strategic alliance, consortium, higher education, international education, Incheon Global Campus, Korea
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