As an example let's take the University of Southampton, Malaysia branch. At face level, the university opened a branch in Malaysia because it's a symbiotic relationship: the university earns more revenue + spread its brand name, and Malaysia gets to leverage the university's expertise to train its future engineers + provide employment (administrators, academics, support staff, etc).

For the Malaysia branch to have some legitimacy, some of its staff must be from the main UK campus. From the branch's "our lecturers" page, this is indeed the case.

My question is, did these lecturers volunteer to go to Malaysia, or were they assigned by the university? Is it a good thing to be able to say one has worked in an overseas branch, or is it a distraction that must be endured for the sake of the university?

  • Related: Why have international branch campuses?
    – gerrit
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 11:03
  • 6
    Won't Malaysians work as academics as well?? Why do they only get to be cleaners or work in HR? Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 18:09
  • @Azor-Ahai some of them undoubtedly will. I wrote that as clarification - even if 100% of the lecturers came from the UK campus, a branch would still provide employment.
    – Allure
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 19:13
  • 4
    Maybe a less divisive way to put it would be "provide employment (administors, academics, support staff, etc)". Because I too read it to mean that you did not expect Malaysians to be a part of the faculty themselves.
    – Roddy
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 23:04

3 Answers 3


You will have to ask these specific people to know the exact details. But in general, in the UK, the employer cannot force you to relocate unless you have a mobility clause in your contract and the relocation is reasonable. It's unlikely that the employees had a relocation clause to Malaysia right from the start, and asking an employee to relocate halfway around the world is probably not reasonable. So no, these people certainly volunteered to move abroad.

More generally, most (tenured) academics expect to be considered more like citizens of their universities than the usual work-related subordination relationship implies, and tend to want to have some agency in defining their working conditions and goals. In particular, this implies stable employment conditions unless the employee wants to change.

As for why they wanted to move abroad: there can be plenty of reasons. They want to form new collaborations with people from there. They want to strengthen existing collaborations with people they already work with. They want to take up the challenge of teaching to students in another country. Their pay is better compared to the local standards of living. They want to learn a new language. They want to discover a new country. Etc.

(PS: This isn't the 16th century anymore. The mindset of thinking "We'll open up an establishment in the colonies to spread our wealth and knowledge for the indigenous people" should be a thing of the past. There are simply smart people living and working in Malaysia, and the university of Southampton wants to work with these people.)


There are plenty of job adverts for positions at these branches. The job specifies the expected division of time between the two locations. Usually there are perks attached to the time spent abroad, such as higher salary or accommodation costs covered.

  • Also, the fact that they can be able to work in both branches can be a perk in itself. I could see some British lecturers be very interested in spending some time in sunny Malaysia.
    – skymningen
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 14:56
  • 1
    @skymningen The Southampton Malaysia campus is in Iskandar, which is in a tropical rain forest. It's not clear that it actually gets more sunshine than Southampton, despite being almost on the equator! (It gets more than twice as much rain, for example.) Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:20
  • This actually seems to imply that it's less preferable to work abroad - one has to offer more perks before people take up the offer @@
    – Allure
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 19:18
  • The salaries at overseas branches tend to be much lower. A major selling point of overseas branches is reduced tuition.
    – emory
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 12:34
  • 1
    I said it can be a perk. Somehow this sparked the understanding that I disregard people who do not wish to work abroad for a part of the year. I am in fact one of them and I prefer cold weather to warm. I still appreciate that other people might be interested in the climate, the benefits for your CV, the personal experiences or any of the other perks going to a different place for work ultimately can have. It can, in fact, be a perk in itself to get those experiences for a specific known time without having to sign up for a full, permanent job contract abroad.
    – skymningen
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 15:38

Expats that are sent/assigned from the home office are usually gloriously compensated - same/better standard of living as in the home country; international (read "prep") schools for the children; guaranteed number of returns back home; sometimes additional monetary compensation is tacked on for having to live in a country of certain levels of instability/danger - like "hazard pay". Usually you are at some elevated managerial level and probably hold an MBA or engineering degree.

There are some who simply don't want to uproot and leave their friends and families and their established lifestyles to a place where their native language might not even be spoken. On the other hand, there are those who would kill to be able to do just that. Probably the majority fall into the former category, hence the elevated perks, but what with international cell phones, email and Skype the world has become yet even smaller and more people are willing to uproot their lifestyles to exotics lands.

  • Gloriously compensated indeed. In case anyone wonders how: much higher demand for education in Asia. Perks can also include a massive tax break (down to 0%). Combine that with a rent-free apartment and it competes with a tenured position at a top western university. Oh and also no publication requirements so you can spend free time doing science for-profit in a pretty fast growing economy while just doing teaching at a university. And my favorite is there is much less regulations so you can freely work on things that are behind a wall of bureaucracy in the west. Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 4:44
  • 2
    Is your answer about academia? The sentence "Usually you are at some elevated managerial level and probably hold an MBA or engineering degree." makes me wonder. The people in question hold a PhD...
    – user9646
    Commented Feb 22, 2018 at 11:11

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