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CNBC

Non, merci! Oxford University shuns plans for a French campus

The British university clarifies, ‘we are not pursuing the model of a campus overseas’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 12:24pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 12:24pm

Oxford University has refuted claims that it could soon break with its centuries-old tradition and launch its first overseas campus in a bid to hedge against Brexit pressures.

The British university, which is currently ranked number one in the world, told CNBC Monday that it had received several “constructive and helpful proposals” from colleagues since the Brexit vote, but added “we are not, however, pursuing the model of a campus overseas”.

The response follows media reports over the weekend that the university was in talks with French officials about the prospect of creating a so-called ‘Oxford-sur-Seine’ in Paris.

The Universite of Paris Seine, a network of ten French universities, last week launched an open call for British universities to apply for a satellite office in the capital as part of its wider expansion plans.

It comes amid France’s on-going charm offensive on Britain, aimed at luring business across the Channel following the U.K.’s vote to leave the EU.

The Universite of Paris Seine hopes to attract British higher education institutions with the promise of security of funding and EU research collaboration at a time when Britain stands to lose EU funding once it repeals its membership of the 28-country bloc.

It is estimated that British Universities currently receive about £1.2 billion (US$1.5 billion) a year from the EU in research funding, as well as gaining access to international networks of researchers, according to research by Times Higher Education.

“British universities today seek to preserve the relations built with their partners in Europe. It is for this reason that we have chosen to act very concretely in order to offer them the possibility to pursue their development alongside us.” explained Jean-Michel Blanquer, the former director-general of the French ministry for education and incumbent President of ESSEC Business School, part of the Universite of Paris Seine network.

The University of Oxford currently participates in several international research alliances with other leading universities, but it does not have a campus outside of the U.K.

It informed CNBC that this is not set to change in light of the new proposals.

The plans have, however, received a warmer reception from other U.K. institutions, with the University of Warwick currently in discussions with French officials.

A spokesperson for the University told CNBC: “Last week we were delighted to be able to host a significant delegation from the leadership of several Parisian universities, and to hear from them about their future plans to work together. We continue to be interested to hear how those plans evolve and how they might also involve partner universities from across Europe.”

British institutions have until July 14, 2017 to express their interest, at which point the program may be opened to other European institutions.

CNBC contacted several U.K. universities, however, at the time of writing, Cambridge University and the University of Manchester were the only institutions to respond.

A spokesperson for Cambridge University said: “The University currently has no plans to open a campus overseas,” adding “Cambridge remains highly committed to ensuring the mobility of students and staff, and to collaborating with our European and global research partners.”

The University of Manchester also said it had “no current plans to open a campus in France.”

The U.K. government were not available for comment.

The Universite of Paris Seine International Campus is set to begin construction in 2018, as the U.K.’s Brexit negotiations are underway.