Subject: NYU extends its brand with full campus in Abu Dhabi
Commentary by: David Vinjamuri
NYU announced today finalization of an agreement first reported in August with the government of Abu Dhabi to open a full-fledged liberal arts campus in the Middle Eastern kingdom. NYU President John Sexton calls the campus, “the first comprehensive liberal arts campus to be operated abroad by a major U.S. research university,” commenting also that, “the costs, planning, design, building and all expenses related to the operation of NYU Abu Dhabi will be assumed by the government of Abu Dhabi.
This is an astonishing move for an elite academic institution, particularly given some of the natural concerns that arise from the funding plan for the campus (see below). It is, however, a logical move for NYU given the myriad troubles that current immigration policy has given U.S. research universities attracting both overseas students and researchers, particularly from the Middle East and North Africa. Many U.S. universities operate campuses abroad, primarily to allow their U.S. based students to study abroad and create centers of expertise in areas that make sense for these. The NYU move is revolutionary because it will fully extend the brand to another country
This also creates real danger for the NYU brand, which will for the first time not be entirely in the hands of the U.S. administration. Although the program will be created entirely by NYU, relying entirely on funding from a single source – an overseas government at that – creates the long-term potential for divergent interests between NYU and the government of Abu Dhabi.
In branding terms, NYU is creating a line-extension (although it could be argued that they’re simply increasing distribution for their current brand) by creating a campus with an entirely different business model in Abu Dhabi. If this new campus fails to have the same academic rigor or intellectual freedom as NYU in New York, it will hurt the brand for NYU. But globalization is a natural step for strong U.S. educational brands and NYU is aggressively pursuing this goal.
Disclosure – I am on the Adjunct Faculty of NYU – but I was in no way involved with creating plans for the Abu Dhabi campus.