Written by Rachel Levine
With allegations of labor rights abuses in Abu Dhabi and backlash over NYU’s 2031 plan, New York University’s global expansion has not been without criticism. While NYU has been a staple in the West Village since 1831, President John Sexton’s plan to brand the school as a “global network university” has had unexpected consequences for the university’s brand.
NYU currently has 11 global study away sites and 3 portal campuses, from the cosmopolitan metropolis of London in the U.K. to the far-flung capital city Accra, in Ghana. However, only three of these international campuses are portal campuses, including Shanghai and Abu Dhabi. As anyone who has experienced recruiting abroad can tell you, working across different time zones is inconvenient, inefficient, and bothersome. Whether it’s trying to schedule a time for a phone interview or attempting to construct a global curriculum, coordinating across the sites can be a challenge.
Professor Sunder Narayanan, who is in charge of standardizing Stern courses across study away sites, says that
“NYU is probably the first university that is having a transnational strategy. We are learning as we go along.”
Bureaucracy exists at all sites, but the motives are different. In Shanghai, most policies are framed around the restrictions set by the Chinese government. Ideas that made perfect sense in New York, such as having a school bookstore, are quickly shut down because of different rules and regulations: for example, the government does not allow excess textbooks on campus.
The rules on the Abu Dhabi campus focus largely on the religious aspects of Emirati culture.
Even so, standardizing certain aspects across all campuses has its issues. While tuition is reportedly the same if you study at an abroad site, the fees at portal campuses differ, either due to administrative policies or government restrictions.
At the NYU Shanghai campus, all students are charged a flat textbook fee before getting to campus. The reasoning behind this is, yet again, Chinese laws. Narayanan comments, “This is what most transnationals have. The problem is that they want to have a global strategy but local laws and regulations vary across countries.”
Given vastly different experiences in Shanghai versus Abu Dhabi, the important part is to note that students are given the opportunity to have these experiences. Narayanan concurs: “This is the challenge of having a global network university, but … it’s compensated by the opportunity it offers our students.”
Narayanan explains: “Those variations can’t be helped; legal differences, cultural differences, those things can’t be helped. But what we can try to overcome, to try to standardize are the curriculum, the quality of the education, the quality of the research, the faculty, to whatever extent we can.”