Guernsey: the next hot spot for international students?

Plans to build a multi-university campus in the Channel Islands are taking shape

June 4, 2019
Source: Alamy

Guernsey is hoping to transform itself into a destination for foreign students by building an “international university” on the island.

The Guernsey government’s Committee for Economic Development is working with established institutions from Europe, North America and Australia in the hope that they will offer courses on a campus on the island, which lies off the coast of France but is a British Crown dependency.

So far, the department has been working with the University of Salford from the UK, Australia’s Deakin University, Brock University in Canada and Slovenia’s University of Ljubljana.

Damon Hackley, the department’s head of operations, said that the ultimate aim would be to have about 2,000 students, but the hope is that the campus will open in 2022 with a smaller cohort to start with. The idea is that students will mix across the campus, regardless of which parent institution they are affiliated to.

Guernsey’s government would fund the development of the campus, with private sector investment also expected.

Mr Hackley told Times Higher Education that it was hoped that the development of a university could help to combat the island’s brain drain, as young people often headed to the UK for higher education and then remained there to work.

However, he said that the primary aim of the project was to support economic growth and innovation, tied to an influx of students, academics and their visitors.

Guernsey, which has a population of around 63,000, might not seem like an ideal location to compete with global student hubs such as London and New York, but Mr Hackley said that the multi-campus institution would have its own attractions.

“The island is small, so there’s a strong sense of community, it’s also a safe and secure environment, there’s pretty scenery, plenty of sunshine and, importantly, the courses would be delivered in English,” he said.

“We’ve got a blank sheet of paper, so we can design what works best for us and for the students. We know we can’t compete with established, large-scale institutions, so we had to find a unique selling point.”

When it comes to teaching and research, the university would “play to the island’s strengths”, Mr Hackley said.

Guernsey has a strong financial sector, and a corporation tax rate of 0 per cent, alongside one of the world’s highest levels of broadband coverage, so one main area of focus would be digital and financial innovation. Its other main areas of study will be the arts and sustainable development, according to Mr Hackley, who said that the island’s resources would provide a natural, self-contained research centre.

On accreditation, Mr Hackley said that this issue would need careful consideration. “From day one, we will be relying on the partner universities, but then looking at connections with UK universities, possibly with the idea to accredit through a third-party university there,” he said.

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