Wednesday 30 April 2014

TNE delivers for the future expansion of international higher education

[Transnational education: the delivery of higher education programmes in a different country from the one where the awarding/overseeing institution is based]

The impact of transnational education (TNE) on host countries is overwhelmingly positive, according to a major new research project by the British Council and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). The research was conducted by McNamara Economic Research and Dr Jane Knight, University of Toronto.

The research, conducted by the British Council and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) is the first in-depth look at the impact of TNE in the countries where it is delivered, and was launched today at ‘Going Global’, the British Council’s annual conference for leaders of international education, held this year in Miami April 29-May 1.

Kevin Van Cauter, British Council Higher Education Advisor, said “We set out to investigate the impacts of TNE on the host country, both positive and negative. One of the most striking findings in the study is that, overall, respondents did not believe that the negative features or potential risks of TNE were important or applicable, the exception being the high cost of TNE programmes compared with local programmes.

“What has come out is that survey respondents believe that TNE is providing increased access to higher education for local students and contributing to improvement of the overall quality of higher education provision. For students, the number-one rationale driving them to enroll in TNE is to improve professional skills for career development, and 61 per cent of respondents believed that studying a TNE programme would increase their earning potential relative to studying a local programme. The research also provides evidence that TNE students understand the importance of awareness and knowledge about international issues and events and they believe that TNE can help them gain this international understanding.”

A report on the findings analyses the views of students, graduates, academics, policy makers and employers in ten host nations. The study found that TNE students most valued the international outlook and analytical skills they gained from the programmes and viewed them as a way of developing their professional skills and furthering their careers. Nearly three quarters (72 per cent) of TNE students believe the programmes offer good value for money, despite often costing more than local alternatives.

Students generally - as well as those on TNE programmes - see TNE as an affordable alternative to full-time study abroad, and regard its most positive attribute as the opportunity to gain a more international outlook. Though the students had opted not to study their entire programme abroad, the option of a short-term study in another country as part of the programme was an important reason for choosing a TNE programme, cited by 70 per cent.

But the report, Impacts of transnational education on host countries: academic, cultural, economic and skills impacts and implications of programme and provider mobility, found a surprising lack of awareness of TNE courses within host countries. Only 39 per cent of non-TNE students were aware of the programmes and less than half (46 per cent) of non-TNE academics.

“In many cases, even students and faculty members in institutions that offered twinning, franchise, double or joint degree programmes were not aware of these opportunities. This indicates the low profile that TNE programmes have, and/or the lack of understanding or confusion of what constitutes a TNE experience and the benefits it can offer,” says the report.

TNE is growing rapidly across the world. According to a recent data from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, there are now more international students taking degrees offered by English universities in their home country than there are studying in England - with 545,000 students registered on TNE courses in 2012-13.

TNE students said the most important reason for enrolling on the courses was to improve their professional skills for career development. Other important factors were access to the specific qualification, improving their intercultural competence and the prestige of the TNE institution or overseas education system.

“Branding and profile of the foreign partner or parent institution has an influence on a student’s decision to enrol in a TNE programme, as the perceived importance of the qualification and the status of the awarding institution ranked in second and fourth place respectively as key motivations for TNE students,” says the report.

On teaching methods, the TNE students overwhelmingly believed that the style is different to traditional programmes, contrary to academic staff (both TNE and non-TNE) who say there are no major differences. The students perceive their analytical thinking to be the most enhanced skill from programmes that rely more on critical thinking and voicing of opinions

For a substantial group of students, internships and work placements form part of the TNE study experience. 42% of students report to have had work-experience opportunities during their studies, often as mandatory part of the programme. 

“The connections between TNE programmes and the labour market are more significant than expected and dovetail well with students’ career development aspirations and employers’ demands for graduates with work experience” says the report.

At a national level, TNE was thought to be having the greatest impact by providing increased access to higher education and improving the quality of local provision. There was some concern among higher education experts that where TNE institutions offered programmes already available locally there was a limited impact on skills gaps, and the study found that TNE does not generally appear to be providing different programmes to those offered locally.

However, students were firmly of the opinion that TNE qualifications gave them an edge in the jobs market, mainly because of the prestige of the foreign university and the fact that they had developed an international outlook.

Notes to Editor

For Interviews please contact Tim Sowula at or +447771 718 135

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

For more information, please visit: