NYU made its way into the Times this week. Its satellite campus in Abu Dhabi has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the world. The plans for NYU Shanghai are under way. And this past week NYU announced a partnership with a non-profit online university to broaden its reach to under served parts of the world via the internet. But these forward thinking global ambitions may create even bigger problems for the university.
NYU is already huge. With 50,000+ students it is one of, if not the largest private universities in the world. Strength usually comes in number, yet NYU with its small army of violets, is disjointed. Alumni giving is dreadfully low. Suicides are freakshily common. Something is missing from the picture that is not keeping this mammoth community together.
The one unique factor NYU has to unify its graduates is the experience it creates within New York City. NYU is not a traditonal university in that it truely immerses its students in the city. But expansion world wide, while a great ploy for the brand, weakens it value. Certainly it will be impossible to create the same enviroment found on Washington Square abroad. And as the number of campuses grow, at what point does that stop being relevant?
I worry that NYU will transform itself into a high end University of Phoenix. Rather than expand, the university should figure out how to cultivate in current students the feelings that keep them active as alumni going forward. A strong base at home can only help make expansion more successful. Until NYU gets that right they should focus on issues closer to home.