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Berkeley plans to build a global campus, 10 miles from home


The University of California at Berkeley plans to open a global campus, but it intends to do so without going very far from home. Under the plan, partner universities from around the world would set up shop at a new outpost just 10 miles (16 km) from Berkeley’s main campus.

The Berkeley Global Campus at Richmond Bay, campus officials say, will offer a “global citizenship” curriculum – with a focus on topics like governance, ethics, health, and sustainability – for graduate students from the United States and abroad.

By situating the campus nearby Berkeley hopes to establish partnerships with universities from around the world while preserving full academic freedom for its faculty.

An academic ‘safe harbour’
Berkeley’s branch-campus concept has international precedents, said Jason E Lane, co-director of the Cross-Border Education Research Team at the State University of New York at Albany, but it hasn’t been seen before in the United States. That shift, he said, comes with a cost: American students and faculty members who participate might miss the broader experience of being immersed in a foreign culture and environment. That could hold true for foreign students as well. Many of those students might not have the opportunity or resources to study in the United States. They’d be more likely to enrol at a branch campus in their own country.

Many overseas branch campuses have, in fact, been dogged by concerns over the academic freedom of their faculty members. In one high-profile example, professors at Yale University objected to an overseas partnership with the National University of Singapore, passing a resolution that expressed “concern regarding the history of lack of respect for civil and political rights” in Singapore. The campus’s main goal, is to encourage an interdisciplinary approach to global problems like climate change, income inequality, epidemic diseases, and the need for new forms of sustainable energy.

Who will participate in that work may change over time. Initially, Gilman said, the branch campus will focus on graduate students. An early tenant of the campus will be a two-year, residential scholarship programme, modelled on the University of Oxford’s prestigious Rhodes Scholarships. Graduate students from around the world who receive the scholarships would spend their first year studying a general, interdisciplinary global-citizenship curriculum. In their second year, they would pursue an individual track, like sustainability or global health. But Berkeley plans eventually to make the campus a home for undergraduate research as well. Berkeley and its institutional partners will be equals in the project, collaborating to develop academic curricula and research plans.

“Berkeley, as a public university in the State of California, is absolutely committed to providing value to and access to Californians,” he said, but “we also realise that being a great university has to involve going global.

“No university, not even Harvard with their huge endowment, has the resources to cover everything in all topics,” . “You’re going to have to form alliances with other universities.”


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