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Dubai: The dynamics of global higher education are shifting as universities look to cater to large pools of Middle Eastern, African and Asian students in search of placement in higher education.

An institution like London's Middlesex University, with branch campuses already in Dubai and Mauritius, seeks to expand its global reach through the addition of a study centre in India.

The Middlesex study centre is set to open in October in the Noida suburb of New Delhi. However, the university already has plans to open a future campus in China said Dr Terry Butland, International Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex.

"There are almost half a million young people in India qualified for higher education that can't get placement in universities because there aren't sufficient places," said Dr Butland.

The centre will offer two-year business and IT programmes. However students will have to travel to another Middlesex campus for their final year in order to attain the full undergraduate degree. This is due to the current Indian higher education laws.

The new centre is expected to increase Middlesex's total student body of 36,000 by 30 per cent — nearly 2,000 of which are on the Dubai campus.

The middleman

Education hubs in the Gulf region like the UAE's Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV), Dubai International Academic City and the Qatar Foundation provide free-zone spaces for international branch campuses to set up shop.

"In 2004 Dubai took a step in the right direction in setting up DKV, which essentially made international education accessible to people in this part of the world," said Professor Christopher Abraham, Head of the Dubai campus and Senior Vice-President of the SP Jain Centre of Management.

"Top tier universities are setting up campuses in multiple locations including the Gulf to draw on students from different regions," said Nunzi Quacquarelli, editor of and director of the QS World MBA tour. One example is Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

It recently set up operations in Dubai as part of a strategy to become a leading global business school, said Professor Peter Lange, Provost of Duke University.

However, Duke University will open its first full-fledged campus outside of the US in China next year.

"China is a dynamic part of the world and a big player in future decades," said Professor Lange.

"It has a highly talented and large population so our strategy is to be in places with the most important global role."

As economies and industries increasingly embrace globalisation, so too are universities, amidst an emerging trend experts have dubbed the globalisation of higher education.

The moves are not uncommon as universities look to go global as economic powers shift East and Indian and Chinese nationals experience a growth in their dispensable income per capita.

"We are seeing the globalisation of higher education where people are looking around the world for better education." said Quacquarelli. "They now realise employers are increasingly selecting people on their education profile."

It seems that as business practices and industry increasingly go global, looking East, they are trailing the shift in economic power.

The future work force must also gain global experience from the undergraduate level.

SP Jain recently introduced a twin-city BBA programme onto its Singapore and Sydney campuses as part of their mission for undergraduate global exposure. Years from now, it may become common for students to attain undergraduate degrees having lived on three or more continents due to operations such as that of Middlesex.

Student mobility

As Western universities look East, experts believe that so too will eastern universities look West, however the growth will not be as rapid in the near future.

"We also expect more universities from the East to come to the West," said Dr Butland. He gave the example of the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, a Malaysian university with a campus in the UK.

Quacquarelli added that a recent IDP Education report predicts that undergraduate student mobility will double in the next five years from three to six million.

"Roughly two-thirds of mobile students will be from Asia and the Middle East," he said.

"The growth in demand for higher education is more rapid in those regions than in the West."

He added the rising demand for education places in the East is directly linked to rising living standards.

The growth of Eastern economies allows the youth to afford university education rather than having to take up full-time work from a young age.