Harvard Moves To Open Three New Offices Abroad

Harvard has authorized the formation of three new international offices in Cape Town, Beijing, and Mumbai, with each office in a different stage of development, according to Vice Provost for International Affairs Jorge I. Domínguez.

The Center for African Studies is expected to open an office in Cape Town, South Africa, by the end of 2015 or early 2016, according to Domínguez. An expected office in Beijing would  be connected to the existing Harvard Center Shanghai, and, if approved by the government of India, the Harvard School of Public Health will open an office in Mumbai. These offices would be used for research and academic work for Harvard affiliates in those regions.

These offices join 16 other offices Harvard operates internationally, including multiple Latin America-based offices of the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Business School locations across Asia, and the recently-opened Medical School research center in Dubai, among others. While the University has research centers and offices abroad, it does not, unlike some of its peers, have any international campuses.

Caroline Elkins, History professor and director of the existing Center for African Studies, will direct the center in Cape Town, although she will remain based in Cambridge.

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Jorge I. Dominguez, the vice provost for international affairs, said Tuesday that the University has authorized the formation of new international offices in Cape Town, Mumbai, and Beijing.


“[The office in Cape Town] is most definitely imagined as being an engaging space for our students and faculty but also the broader community in Africa,” Elkins said, adding that she hopes the office will facilitate research in the region and offer students more study abroad opportunities.

The office in Beijing would be connected to the existing University-wide office in Shanghai and possibly serve a similar function; the Shanghai office includes a conference venue and facilitates internships for undergraduates.

“A lot of the work in China unavoidably requires interacting with the Chinese government, and that’s in Beijing,” Domínguez said, explaining the reason for the location of the planned center.

Domínguez said the proposed Indian office is in the earliest stages of development compared to the offices in China and South Africa. He said he hopes the Indian government will approve of the Harvard office in Mumbai this summer.

Proposals for new international offices must be brought to the University Committee on International Projects and Sites, which Domínguez chairs. Then, if that committee approves a potential office, University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 must approve the plan.

Important to any given proposal is the academic rationale of the project, according to Domínguez.

“What is it about the office that we cannot just do it based in Cambridge, or in Boston?” Domínguez said. “What will it do for our students, what will it do for our faculty, in what way will it facilitate research that we can't just do from here?”

Although Domínguez does not know how many people will be employed in the Cape Town and Beijing offices, he estimated that number would be in the “one digit” range,  he wrote in an email.

Faculty members have praised University President Drew G. Faust’s efforts to expand Harvard’s international presence, most recently through her trip to China.

“[She’s] trying to present Harvard as a school with a global footprint,” said East Asian Languages and Civilizations professor Mark C. Elliott. Elliot recently accompanied Faust on her trip to China in March, where she met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss universities’ roles in combating climate change and appeared at a “Your Harvard” alumni event.

In October, Faust traveled to Mexico, where she met with Harvard affiliates and hosted a well-attended alumni reception in Mexico City.

“Under President Faust, Harvard has become more intentionally global,” Elkins said.

—Staff Writer Karl M. Aspelund contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.


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