From the Vice Provost and Associate Vice Provost

UC Davis Global Centers: The Next Phase of Internationalization

As higher education becomes a more global enterprise and the world is seen as increasingly interconnected, universities worldwide are exploring new ways to internationalize their primary goals and activities. On many U.S. campuses, the student body is becoming more internationally diverse through aggressive recruitment of both students and faculty. A broader, more international curriculum is being developed for both undergraduate and graduate students that includes overseas study, internships, and field work. Research collaborations and institutional agreements are increasing dramatically in both number and complexity, and are encompassing universities, government agencies, and private corporations.

These trends have also stimulated U.S. universities and their peers in other countries to develop a variety of activities, educational programs and models for expanding their global presence and off-shore programs. These efforts range from an office or meeting rooms with limited activities and goals, to global centers or hubs which are multidimensional in their agendas (e.g. Columbia University’s Global Centers and Ohio State University’s Global Gateways) to multi-campus global networks of universities offering full-service degree-granting programs abroad (e.g. New York University). In this last category, a new report by the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a British-based research group, counted 200 branch campuses around the globe (defined as a degree-granting higher education institution with a physical presence in a country other than that of the home institution). Today, U.S. universities operate the largest number of branch campuses worldwide with 78. It is probable that these will multiply in the future through strategic alliances with overseas partners and investors and a more liberalized and expanding higher education market, but they will likely face multiple significant challenges.

In the recent past the University of California system and UC Davis have had a number of physical locations overseas. The UC Education Abroad Program, which celebrated its 50th anniversary, has had offices, staff, and professors in as many as 35 locations on six continents  that provide UC undergraduate students study abroad opportunities in leading universities worldwide. During the last 10 years, UC has also had a physical presence in Mexico City (Casa de California), London (London House) and Shanghai which served multiple purposes including a site for conferences, workshops, study abroad offices, student recruitment, and alumni events.

With our expanding international efforts, UC Davis has been exploring new opportunities for a physical presence overseas. A few years ago, the campus began evaluating the possibility of a branch campus in Madrid, Spain. This fall, to build stronger relations in Madrid, UC Davis will hold a research showcase to focus on a number of our successful programs. A market study is now being conducted to determine the feasibility of a branch campus. Last month, under Michael Siminovitch’s leadership, the formation of a new UC Davis Lighting Center in Singapore was announced. At the same time, UC Davis is exploring Chile, China, and the United Arab Emirates as other possible overseas sites for new research and educational collaborations.

To provide a framework and guiding principles for these efforts the Provost asked our office to prepare a white paper on Higher Education Global Presences/Global Centers ( This year, a new task force will be appointed and co-chaired by the Provost and Vice Provost for University Outreach and International Programs. Its charge will be to examine the goals and purposes for global centers. Specific factors to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to: the strength of the region’s relationship with UC Davis (e.g. the current and previous research, educational and outreach programs and activities, institutional collaborations, and alumni and donor connections); the quality and quantity of prospective undergraduate and graduate students; the strength of the potential partner educational and research institutions; the logistical challenges in establishing various physical facilities; and the strategic and tactical benefits of particular locations. The Institute of International Education (which manages several international programs including the Fulbright Program and Humphrey program) recommends considering the following additional questions:

  • What is the right business structure for the international venture?
  • What type of administrative infrastructure needs to be in place?
  • What unique financial considerations should be kept in mind?
  • How will the business practices and the financial management of the overseas site be aligned with the home campus?
  • How strong are local partnerships and the local team?

With its history of numerous successful collaborative relationships with leading international and governmental institutions, a large international faculty and student body, and an expanding community of international alumni and friends, UC Davis is well-poised to develop a number of strategically located global centers.

— William B. Lacy, Vice Provost
Adrienne Martín, Associate Vice Provost