Last June, it was brought to the attention of UCD’s Governing Authority that the University is facing a number of financial issues unrelated to the pandemic, primarily focused in three Colleges. The most severely affected is the College of Business, arguably the University’s most successful.

UCD’s Quinn and Smurfit Schools are a point of pride for the University. These institutions are perennially successful in international collegiate rankings, regularly placed as the best of their kind in Ireland and well-regarded worldwide. So why is such a successful College at the beginning of a five-year-long financial recovery plan?

The answer lies many thousands of miles away in Southeast Asia. 

For over two decades, UCD has been partnered with Kaplan Singapore, a subsidiary of the American for-profit education company Kaplan Inc. Through this company, the College of Business has been offering both Bachelors and Masters degrees under the UCD brand in Singapore, fully accredited by the Chinese Ministry of Education. However, this partnership is sinking, with blame for the College’s recent financial troubles being placed firmly on the unit’s presence in Singapore.

UCD Singapore
Kaplan Singapore (Image Credit: UCD.ie)

UCD is no stranger to international satellite institutions. In China, UCD has a long-standing partnership with Beijing University of Technology, with which it runs a joint school, the Beijing Dublin International College. This undertaking has been successful enough to win approval from the Chinese Ministry of Education for two more similar institutions, which were announced this past May. It also co-owns a medical college in Malaysia alongside RCSI. 

What sets these undertakings apart from UCD’s collaboration with Kaplan Singapore is that each of these retains a sense of institutional autonomy. In these cases, degrees are issued jointly with partner institutions, or (in the case of Malaysia) the institution is an independent university in and of itself. UCD Singapore, on the other hand, acts as a part of UCD, facilitated by Kaplan. It advertises itself with the very same branding and accolades associated with the Quinn and Smurfit Schools, and it awards graduates UCD degrees. 

The unusual nature of UCD’s presence in Southeast Asia is compounded by their relationship with Kaplan Singapore. Many have questioned its parent company’s practices in places like the United States, where for-profit educational institutions have come under fire for taking advantage of students, leaving them thousands in debt with ineffective degrees. Interestingly, for-profit institutions appear to take a different role in Singapore’s education system.

Many have questioned the practices of Kaplan’s parent company in places like the United States, where for-profit educational institutions have come under fire for taking advantage of students,

They instead serve usually as a second-choice option to the country’s highly competitive public institutions, giving students an alternative way to obtain a degree-for a price. Instead of being admitted to and enrolling in a traditional university, students will take courses provided by other schools through Kaplan. UCD is one of a number of universities whose courses are featured by Kaplan, including Murdoch University, Birmingham City University, University of Portsmouth, and others. 

As Kaplan is a private, for-profit institution, one would assume that the University’s long-standing speculations in Singapore had paid off handsomely for some time. Looking back through the University’s annual Financial Reports, a company named NUI Dublin PTE Ltd., based in Singapore, regularly reported surpluses in the tens and hundreds of thousands since it was founded in 2015.

However, it appears that the College of Business’s golden goose has quickly become an albatross around its neck. The College’s recent financial woes have been blamed on an increase in on-the-ground competition in Singapore, with the plan reportedly focusing on “increasing non-EU income”. The future of UCD’s presence in Singapore is, therefore, unclear. 

The UCD School of Business is yet to respond to comment. 

Jack McGee – Reporter

This article is from Fócas, the investigative wing of The College Tribune. Get in touch with us at [email protected] Let us know what we should be looking into on campus.