Aberystwyth University's Mauritius campus has been criticised by a former vice-chancellor after just 40 students enrolled in its first two terms.
Prof Derec Llwyd Morgan, who ran the university from 1994 to 2004, told the BBC the figures showed it was a bad decision to go to a far-flung country.
"The venture is madness," he said.
The university said it was "a level of recruitment that compares more than favourably to the early phases of other international branch campuses".
Prof Morgan said: "They would be better concentrating their resources on high-quality staffing and attracting more domestic students."
The two other British universities to open in Mauritius - Wolverhampton and Middlesex - both had about 90 enrolments in their first year on the island, according to figures gathered by the country's higher education regulator.
The University of Central Lancashire also offers courses in Mauritius.
Earlier this year, Wolverhampton announced it was closing its campus, four years after it opened.
Aberystwyth's campus opened in autumn 2015 in a partnership with a company based on the island, Boston Campus Limited.
It is open to people from Mauritius, as well as international and UK students, and offers courses including criminal law, business finance and computer science.
It can take up to 2,000 students and the income from fees is split between the university and Boston Campus, which was responsible for building it.
The university had spent about £600,000 on the venture by the end of April, mostly on staffing costs.
Previously, the institution refused to reveal the number until a Freedom of Information request by BBC Wales' Cymru Fyw, showed 40 students had enrolled between September 2015 and 1 May.
John Grattan - who has responsibility for the campus - is working alongside outgoing university vice-chancellor April McMahon while her long-term replacement is sought.
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."
Aberystwyth v Mauritius
Location: Ceredigion, on the west coast of Wales
Named after: Aberystwyth means "Mouth of Ystwyth" - the river which skirts the town
Climate: Oceanic, similar to almost all of the UK
Average summer temp: 10-18C (50-64F)
Average winter temp: 4-8.5C (39-47F)
Average sea temperature: 8.3-15.8C (47-60F)
Notable landscape: Aberystwyth seafront, pier and promenade, the harbour mouth and beaches
Location: Indian Ocean, about 500 miles (800km) east of Madagascar
Named after: Dutch prince Maurice Van Nassau
Capital: Port Louis
Population: 1.2 million, including Rodrigues and outer islands
Climate: Tropical oceanic, with high temperatures and humidity throughout the year
Average summer temp: 23-33C (73-91F)
Average winter temp: 17-23C (62-73F)
Average sea temperature: 22-27C (71-80F)
Notable landscape: White beaches, coral reef, dramatic cliffs and volcanic hills