Bristol opens talks on Adelaide venture

June 2, 2006

State-supported and private UKinstitutions are lining up to establish bases in Australia. Geoff Maslen reports.

Bristol University has discussed setting up a base in Adelaide with the South Australian Government and state education officials.

Eric Thomas, Bristol's vice-chancellor, is understood to have held talks with the Government while he was attending the Commonwealth Association of Universities conference last month. But a Bristol spokesman told The Times Higher that plans were in the early stages and that Professor Thomas would not comment.

If the proposals come to fruition, Bristol will be the second British university to establish a presence in Australia. This year, Heriot-Watt University signed an agreement with Tribeca Learning, a Sydney-based financial services education group, to offer online MBA degrees to Australians through its Edinburgh Business School.

Last week, Australia's first foreign-owned campus opened in Adelaide with 71 students, most from overseas, enrolled on its masters courses. Carnegie Mellon University expects the figure to rise to 200 in three years.

The South Australian Government offered Carnegie Mellon a A$20 million (Pounds 8 million) grant to set up a campus in Adelaide. The state government is also establishing a foundation to support the institution. So far, this has the backing of Baroness Greenfield; News International boss Rupert Murdoch; Margaret Jackson, head of Qantas; and Tim Fischer, Australia's former Deputy Prime Minister.

Neither Heriot-Watt nor Bristol would benefit from the state support offered to Carnegie-Mellon. But the activity attracted other British entrepreneurs.

Sue and Joseph Arazi visited Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth to discuss with education officials the possibility of opening a college for foreign students.

Mr Arazi told The Times Higher that he and Dr Arazi had been running a college for international students in Watford and were planning to sell up and move to Adelaide or Perth. He said: "We are somewhat disillusioned with education in the UK. We are in the process of selling our college campus."

Until 2003, the college rented premises from West Herts College, where it had provided English language teaching for Chinese students. But more recently it had been based at its own campus.

Meanwhile, Heriot-Watt applied for registration as a foreign university in Australia, a pre-requisite for its Edinburgh Business School to run MBA courses.

Warren Jacobson, Tribeca's corporate and strategy director, said the New South Wales Education Ministry appointed an assessment panel to consider the application.

Alick Kitchen and Bob Craik from the Edinburgh school will meet the panel next month to discuss quality assurance issues and Tribeca's capacity to administer the courses. The panel will submit its recommendation to the state Education Minister, with a decision expected by September.

This month, shareholders in Tribeca Learning approved a A$55 million takeover offer by the Washington Post -owned Kaplan University. The Federal Court approved the deal on May 9 and Tribeca's shares were transferred to Kaplan last week. Mr Jacobson said the company's operations would form the platform for Kaplan's expansion in Australia.

Tribeca has 16,000 enrolments a year in its various programmes and expects to generate revenues worth A$30 million in 2006.

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