What if NYU threw a party in the desert and no one came? Precedent shows it might happen: according to an article in the UAE newspaper The National, other US institutions in Abu Dhabi have only managed to attract something between a quarter and half as many students as projected. George Mason University has a mere 83 students in its Abu Dhabi campus.
Anyone familiar with the NYU expansion into Abu Dhabi recognizes the project as combination public relations gimmick and cash cow. NYU will choose to build the cheapest campus possible, and funnel the rest of the Emirate’s cash back to its building plans at Washington Square. The long term sustainability of this strategy – pimping the brand name to lower cost locations to bring money to the US campus – relies on the ability to draw new students to the abroad campus. If NYUAD falls flat on enrollment, students at home could feel the costs for years to come.
Of course, in response NYU Vice Chancellor for Abu Dhabi Mariet Westermen expressed some blind faith that NYU will pull through with some students when the chips are down, but I think that NYU-folks might have to face up to the possibility of NYUAD becoming a financial failure, as well as the moral failure and potential public relations failure it has developed into.