Transnational education: back to basics

Transnational education: back to basics

Transnational education (TNE) has been garnering more attention in recent years; however, as Jason Lane and Kevin Kinser point out in their article in summer Forum magazine, TNE is not a new concept. In 1858, the University of London created a validation model for students at colleges outside of the UK to sit for exams. If they passed, they were awarded a University of London degree. Furthermore, in the 1920s, a number of institutions began to explore the use of international branch campuses in Paris and Bologna.

Nevertheless, it was in the mid 1990s, largely bolstered by the internet, ease of travel and an increasing number of privatised universities, that the TNE growth spurt really took place.

The most recent issue of Forum magazine sought to explore various aspects of TNE, from questions of quality assurance, to practical issues when building branch campuses. This week on the blog, we will continue the discussions, taking it back to basics to define and explain varies TNE modes of delivery, and then moving on to the challenges TNE can pose for credential evaluators. The final blog post will look at the wider implications of TNE for the future and the need for adaptive strategies to manage the risks and opportunities.

Transnational education: a definition

Transnational education can be described as: “all types of higher education study programmes, or sets of courses of study, or educational services (including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based”. UNESCO/Council of Europe Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education (Riga, 6 June 2001).

‘Host countries’ and ‘provider countries or institutions’ are often terms used in TNE discussions. A host country is a country or territory where TNE is delivered. Provider countries/institutions are educational countries/institutions who provide TNE programmes outside their own country.

Delivery modes of TNE

Various types of delivery of TNE programmes have emerged over the years, which Kevin Van-Cauter summarised in his EAIE Internationalisation Handbook article (Volume 2, 2013) as follows:

Distance learning: a learning experience which has little or no face to face contact. Students are able to study at their own pace and have limited interaction with other students or tutors on their course.

Online learning and E-learning: learning delivered via the internet. High quality online learning is highly supported and interactive.

In-country delivery/collaborative provision/partnerships: programmes where the delivery mode is predominantly face-to-face (for the whole of a course or part of it). Teaching is usually delivered through a local partner institution or through a branch campus. Most of the teaching is delivered by locally based instructors. Modes of in-country delivery include:

  • Branch campus: The institution creates a campus on another site. Staff may be recruited locally or brought from the provider country, but they are staff of the provider. This is often considered the most resource-intensive form of TNE.
  • Twinning programme: The provider institution has a local partner which teaches part of the course using their own staff. Students travel to the local partner’s campus to complete the course. The local provider is responsible for the delivery of the course; the providing institution is responsible for monitoring academic standards.
  • In-country foundation/access programme: Many foundation/access programmes are delivered outside of the provider country’s territory. Some programmes are for entry to a particular degree programme in the provider country; others are more general.
  • Dual/Joint award: Two institutions provide programmes leading to separate awards of both or all of them (dual award) or to a single award made jointly by both (joint award).
  • Franchising: The provider institution licences a local institution to teach some or all of its courses, so that students can receive the award of the provider institution without attending the provider’s home campus. The local institution is responsible for delivery of the course; the provider institution has overall responsibility for content, delivery, assessment and quality assurance.
  • Validation: The course is developed and delivered by the local institution. The provider institution judges whether it is of appropriate quality to lead to its award.

International branch campuses

As mentioned above, international branch campuses (IBCs) are often considered the most resource intensive form of TNE. The Cross Border Education Research Team (CBERT) at the State University of New York at Albany monitors the extent of educational institutions moving across borders, and have recorded the following statistics regarding international branch campuses. Currently, there are 30 exporting countries of IBCs, the largest (in order of institutions with branches) being: USA (50), UK (24), Australia (13), France (6), and India (6).

The number of importing countries is higher, at 68. The largest importers of branch campus: (in order of campus imported): UAE (33), China (29), Singapore (14), Qatar (11), and Malaysia (9).

Take a look at the CBERT’s interactive map which shows the location of branch campuses across the world, and download the Forum article by Independent Consultant, Vicky Lewis, providing guidance on marketing considerations when developing an international branch campus.

Check the blog in the upcoming days for the next instalments of this TNE series, and feel free to share any comments and experiences you’ve had with TNE below!