This paper maps the landscape of transnational higher education in the Middle East, focusing in particular on the recent expansion of satellite, branch, and offshore educational institutions and programs that foreign institutions have set up in the region. Of the estimated 100 branch campuses currently operating worldwide, over one-third are in the Arab region and the majority have opened within the last decade; two dozen additional transnational programs and universities exist in the region as well. Very little research has been conducted on these new institutions, however, raising many questions for scholars in education. This paper traces reasons for the rapid growth of the transnational higher education model in the Arab states and discusses the explanatory power for this phenomenon of the two major prevailing theories in comparative and international education. We argue that neither neoinstitutional theories about global norm diffusion nor culturalist theories about the local politics of educational borrowing and transfer sufficiently explain this phenomenon, and call instead for a regional approach. We also raise questions for further inquiry.