Nearly every nation in the world would like to bring in the best and brightest scholars to its schools (and hopefully tap into some of that genius in their economy), but not all have the resources or the facilities to do so. While the U.S. and Europe still dominate many of the lists of top universities, other nations, even some smaller ones, are working hard to provide some serious international competition, building massive education cities and cutting-edge universities that are designed to bring in students from all over the world. While some still have a long way to go, others are proving that top-tier higher education is going to be a far more global game in the coming decades. We highlight just a few of these cities and their impressive educational offerings in this list.
It should come as no surprise that Dubai is jumping on the education hub bandwagon, as the nation is known for doing just about everything on a grand scale. Dubai has actively pursued branch campuses from top schools around the world, building an amazing array of international branch campuses that includes programs at 25 different colleges from around the world. These programs are housed in four different education hubs in Dubai: Dubai Knowledge Village, Dubai International Financial City, Dubai Health Care City, and Dubai Silicon Oasis. Each caters to a specific type of student and many are affiliated with programs from big name schools like Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston University that offer students a chance to get a degree at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral levels.
Visitors to Doha, Qatar will find an array of architecturally impressive buildings at the Education City, a large educational hub on the outskirts of the city. The hub offers courses at nearly all levels of education, from elementary school (through Qatar Academy and The Learning Center) all the way up to doctoral programs, in an attempt to instruct students in fields of critical importance to this Gulf country’s economic well-being. Currently, there are six U.S. universities, one British university, and one French university offering courses and degree programs in Education City, with professors hailing from big name schools like Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and Georgetown. There is also one Qatari university that offers degrees in Islamic studies. With top-notch facilities, a huge research park, and high-quality instruction, the hub is drawing interest not only from Qatar but around the world as well.
Jeju, South Korea:
South Korea is on a mission to become an education destination not only from South Asia but also for the world. They’re off to a good start with a new project called Jeju Global Education City that began construction in 2009. Located in Jeju, an island off the coast of South Korea, the school combines top-notch elementary, middle, and high schools and universities, many coming from foreign nations like the U.S. and the U.K. Surprisingly, the official language of the school will be English, with all courses taught in the language and all students, teachers, staff, and administrators required to speak it. The school is largely a response of the desires of Korean parents to send their children to Western-style schools, where they can learn English and escape the pressures of the Korean education system, but still keep them close to home so they can visit. But the education hub won’t just be a place for Korean students; developers hope to draw in students from all over the region, especially China.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
Malaysia has been open about its desire to become a regional hub for education, a process that relies on branch campuses of international universities to come to fruition. Currently, the nation is working with not one but two educational hubs, EduCity at Iskandar and Kuala Lumpur Education City. Iskandar is dedicated both to education and to other projects like business and research and development. One of the biggest schools offering programs there is the University of Newcastle, which has established a medical school within the Iskandar zone. The Kuala Lumpur Education City is still under development but has two locations within the city planned. The hub will offer education from Cambridge Business School, Epsom College, and Universiti Sains Malaysia (and potentially other schools) to those in the region with an expected student population of nearly 30,000. Malaysian education hubs are drawing in thousands of students, so many that the nation is struggling to keep up with demand, but that hasn’t slowed plans to draw in 200,000 international students by 2020.
Fort Clayton, Panama:
Former U.S. military buildings were converted into a center for knowledge exchange in Fort Clayton, Panama, in a project that’s called the City of Knowledge (or Ciudad del Saber to the locals). Founded in 1998, the educational hub brings together universities, technology, and businesses, with the idea that the facility would help bring more economic prosperity and high-tech projects to the Latin American region as a whole. The country has offered a number of fiscal incentives to top universities to encourage them to bring branch campuses there, and now several schools offer degrees through the city, including McGill, U Penn, Florida State, Saint Louis University, Iowa State, and the School for International Training.
In 2007, Bahrain announced plans to develop itself as an education hub, hoping to establish itself as the premier destination for higher education in the region. Of all the nations on this list, Bahrain’s programs are most in their infancy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t become a major player in the coming years. The country already has relationships with McMaster University, American University of Beirut, Hanover University, and the University of Westminster, with the construction of new facilities, more international schools are soon to join. It will be the fifth education hub in the Middle East region, offering students in these areas a chance to attend top-tier schools without going far from home.
Singapore has been one of the most successful nations (it is a city-state) at creating a truly successful knowledge and education hub. Its Global Schoolhouse Initiative hasbecome the model for many other education hubs in the area and around the world. The GSI launched in 2002 as a means to enrich education in Singapore by “introducing a diverse mix of top tertiary institutions and programs that complement EDB’s industry development efforts.” That seems to be just what the hub has done, with the help of some seriously good marketing that has branded Singapore’s education facilities as some of the best and most desirable in Asia (and it’s not just smoke and mirrors, Singapore ranks No. 1 in higher education systems in Asia, and 11th in the world). They aren’t doing it without help, however, and like other education destinations on this list, they’re making use of the established programs in foreign nations to jumpstart their own educational systems. Currently, the GSI offers programs from U of Chicago, Duke University, MIT, and Imperial College and plans are in the works for more in the future.
Hong Kong may be a small territory, but they have been ambitious when it comes to drawing in students to their higher education facilities. Through the territory’s Songo Global University, they hope to nurture talent for the region, bringing in the best and the brightest and training them in high-demand fields though a blend of Eastern and Western education programs. The education hub accepts students from around the world, but works hard to keep them in Hong Kong after graduation, so that talent doesn’t migrate far. While Hong Kong’s educational facilities have done a great job at drawing in international schools and students, many experts believe that the potential for Hong Kong as an international hub may be limited, as the number of foreign students is restricted by the government to just 20% of the total intake each year.
Colombo, Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka isn’t an education hub just yet, but the nation has made that goal one of the most important to its national development plans. The Ministry of Higher Education in Sri Lanka announced that it wants to construct the most cost effective education hub in Asia, establishing itself as a regional knowledge and education hub in the region by 2015. After decades of civil war, political instability, and economic malaise, the South Asian nation finally seems poised to be able to make this goal a reality. While projects are in development, there are still major roadblocks, including protests of plans to allow foreign colleges to establish branch campuses in Sri Lanka, a major component of most education hubs in the region. Still, low cost-of-living, safety, and a rich cultural environment may be enough to help build the nation as a major education player in the coming years.
Unlike others on this list, India isn’t building education cities to bring in foreign students, instead working to establish a knowledge economy that’s helping to bring in big schools, top students, and quality professors from all over the world. Bangalore is just one example of the way India is making itself an education destination. The city is full of IT companies and tech research, fed by a number of research and academic institutions like the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management. This highlights another difference between India and other education destinations on this list: much of India’s academic programs are homegrown and don’t come from foreign institutions. That’s not to say that there aren’t branch campuses to be found in India, but those alone aren’t what are bringing in Indian students and those from neighboring nations. That difference may be what helps make India a more sustainable destination for education over the long term, as it doesn’t have to rely on other international support to meet its educational goals.