A university in New Zealand has confirmed a significant expansion of programs in Singapore, just a month after confessing it was in the most “difficult financial situation” it had ever faced.
In July, Massey University Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa asked over 200 staff to consider voluntary redundancy as part of its plans to cut costs amid declining student enrolments and a reported $8.8m deficit.
In August, the institution announced it would be launching a new campus in Singapore, a recent favourite of foreign universities looking to expand their TNE outreach.
However, there is speculation among staff as to whether this campus would be successful – even top-notch universities such as Johns Hopkins University had difficulty in the region, with its Singapore campus being closed down in 2017.
A chair in theoretical chemistry at the university, Peter Schwerdtfeger, said there was “little understanding among staff” about why cuts are necessary when they are, effectively, instead investing in Singaporean students
“Such an investment is seen as high-risk by most academics,” Schwerdtfeger added.
Vice-chancellor Jan Thomas told staff, according to Stuff, that it would be building Singapore as a “major face-to-face campus” as part of “four big shifts” required to keep the university afloat.
Responding to The PIE News’ request for comment, a Massey University spokesperson insisted that there would not be a physical campus as part of the plans to expand in the country – and that the plan is one of the methods it will use to help keep the university financially sustainable.
“The announcement to expand our Singapore offering is in response to the current economic environment, where we need to diversify the way that we work, including transnationally.
“This is directly aligned to the Massey University Strategy 2022-2027… [and] this expansion has been in consideration for over a year,” they told The PIE.
One commentator on LinkedIn, Chris J Reed, argued that the university should not be criticised for attempting to expand its outreach.
“Surely it’s common sense that if you can’t make money in your home country then you explore other countries where you can. Why aren’t they being congratulated?
“Why the criticism when opening a campus in Singapore has minimal costs but could be very lucrative?” he asked.
An English professor from another New Zealand university pointed out the irony on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Massey was possibly using “taxpayer funding to pay to educate the young people of Singapore” while tertiary options in New Zealand are dwindling.
Massey told The PIE that New Zealand money would not be used for the venture, but did not reveal how much the investment would be to expand the offerings in Singapore.
It noted it was planning to reach 5000 students offshore by 2026 – it already has 300 students offshore in Singapore and 2000 more in other countries.
“We plan to offer a range of programs in Singapore and are currently finalising which of these will commence from 2024.
“There are no plans to ‘build’ a physical campus in Singapore – the university is aware that other institutions have attempted to create sub-campuses in Singapore. However, we are not following their approaches.
“This compelling opportunity has been given a great deal of thought and consideration regarding the potential risks and rewards, including the anticipated revenue contribution this could provide the university,” the spokesperson added.
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