Claims by Nottingham University that its Malaysia campus is an integral part of the university are incorrect, a court has ruled.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal has stated that the University of Nottingham in Malaysia (UNMC) is a "franchise operation", contrary to claims in Nottingham's marketing materials relating to the venture.
In an unfair dismissal case brought against Nottingham by a lecturer, Geoffrey Williams, the EAT referred to Nottingham's publicity material. The judgment said: "UNMC was said to be an integral part of Nottingham University, and the business school was referred to as 'one school incorporating both the Nottingham and Malaysian campuses'."
But the tribunal ruled that "in truth, UNMC was not integral to Nottingham University but was a franchise operation conducted by a separate entity".
Dr Williams lost his claim after the tribunal said it had no jurisdiction to hear his claim, as his employer was not based in Britain. The ruling was the latest outcome in a long-running dispute between the university and the lecturer, who has filed complaints with the Association of Masters of Business Administration against UNMC.
UNMC is a joint venture in which Nottingham holds a minority share; the balance is held by two Malaysian firms. The university receives 10 per cent of student fees from the venture and provides academic control over courses, sets exams and awards degrees.
Nottingham's China campus, a joint venture with Wanli Education Group, also has separate company status. A Nottingham spokesman said the China and Malaysia ventures were campuses in "academic terms" and were "absolutely not franchises".
"A franchising operation is simply the licensing of a curriculum, with remote quality assurance. A condition of Nottingham's decision to establish (these) campuses has been 100 per cent control of academic matters," he said.
At a seminar hosted by education think-tank Agora this week, Michael Shattock, professor of higher education management at the Institute of Education, will question whether universities can justify international campuses.
Nottingham's vice-chancellor, Sir Colin Campbell, said: "Franchise arrangements are too great a risk to reputation. That is why we have taken the overseas campus approach. Degrees awarded by Nottingham, whether in the UK, Malaysia or China, are exactly the same."
Andrew Halper, head of law firm Eversheds' China business group, who will also speak at the seminar, warned that Chinese regulations were a "minefield".
"Co-operative education projects are not meant to be profit-generating. We are advising an institution that set up in China without addressing this and is having problems getting money out," he said. "Further liberalisation will happen (in future), and I can see more universities moving into China. There is money to be made if it's done properly."