Aberystwyth University’s Mauritius campus has been criticised by a former vice-chancellor as “madness”, after just 40 students enrolled for its first two terms.
Professor Derec Llwyd Morgan, who ran the university in Wales for ten years from 1994, said the figures showed it was a bad decision to spend resources on the exotic island campus.
“The adventure is madness,” he told the BBC, “[Aberystwyth] would be better concentrating their resources on high-quality staffing and attracting more domestic students."
The university said it was a “level of recruitment that compares more favourably to the early phases of other international branch campuses”.
Two other British universities – Wolverhampton and Middlesex – also have campuses open in Mauritius, which is popular for marine life studies and other scientific research projects.
Both Wolverhampton and Middlesex had around 90 students enrolled for their first year on their island, according to figures gathered by the country’s higher education regulator.
Earlier this academic year, Wolverhampton announced it was closing its campus after four years of study, in order to focus on its UK courses and traditional partnerships.
Quartier Militaire, Aberystwyth’s residential campus near Port Louis, Mauritius, offers courses in BSc degrees in Accounting and Finance and well as several Business courses to UK and international students at home and abroad.
The campus can take up to 2,000 students, despite only 40 enrolling between September and May this year. The population of Mauritius is fewer than 1.3m.
Aberystwyth admitted to spending around £600,000 on the venture by the end of April, mostly on staffing costs.
Prof Morgan said: "They should never have opened this campus without ensuring there were enough students in Aberystwyth itself."
A university spokesman said the number of students at such an early stage in the development was "a positive and very successful start".
He added: "We do, however, hope to build on this significantly in the coming years."
"Establishing an overseas campus is becoming increasingly common for UK universities and we believe Aberystwyth University can play a key role in providing new opportunities for students to have access to quality education, students who otherwise could not access these types of courses due to travel or financial issues."
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