A wide shot of the plenary hall at Edinburgh International Conference Centre where Scott Macdonald address the crowd.

Key points arising from the conference: 

This year's Going Global conference focus was on sustainable, scalable and equitable partnerships in tertiary education, said Scott McDonald, the British Council’s Chief Executive. Global demand for tertiary education continues to grow, increasingly from the middle classes, so there needs to be creative solutions to meet demand at a pace and a price that is acceptable, affordable and maximises the opportunity for young people. 

Opening plenary

In his opening remarks at the conference, Scott McDonald, Chief Executive of the British Council, said creative and effective partnerships are the key to making and unlocking and making progress on many of the issues faced within transational education. While acknowledging the difficulties involved in establishing successful partnerships, he believed that it could be done. “If we get it right and we get many of these partnerships over the line then all universities should have multiple partnerships with global counterparts and that will widen access to international tertiary education, particularly for under-represented groups, and reduce brain drain.

Gillian Keegan, the UK’s Education Secretary and a keynote speaker, said she believed education had gone through three ages and is now at the “fourth age” of education and research driven by international collaborations. “If you are better connected you learn and react more quickly and pull ahead in the global race,” she said. International mobility can be expensive and out of reach for many students and we need to think hard about what more can be done to make mobility more sustainable and equitable.

Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, President of Universities UK  in her address to delegates, highlighted the extent to which ‘transnational education is a huge amplifier and asset to the UK. In 2020 revenue from education-related exports and transnational education amounted to a substantial £25.6 billion. But it is of course essential that transnational education partnerships are developed in a strategic and sustainable way in line with institutional capabilities and values. When this is achieved these partnerships can genuinely widen access to higher education and support mutual learning thus making a positive contribution both to the UK and the host country or partner.’

Olanike Adeyemo, Professor of Health and Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, in her speech to delegates said 'a crucial element of partnerships is that they have to be symbiotic. There has to be reciprocity and that has to be put in place as you are brokering a partnership'. Outlining the need to have higher education resources that meet the local and social needs and contextualise the curricula rather than adopting a one size fits all approach.  

Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, UK, warned against a belief that there is one path to modernisation that all must follow - the western path - and that western countries and their education have nothing to learn from non-western culture and education. He said this was no basis for global partnerships going forward. “It is so difficult and so vital that we finally break with this inherited belief in our own superiority,”

Launch of the British Council's TNE Strategy

The strategy calls for four key actions over the next two years: contributing to better data and insight on UK TNE; creating an enabling environment for TNE in other countries and promoting the quality of UK TNE internationally; influencing the removal of barriers to TNE; and supporting TNE to contribute to the transformation of local education systems, and to the Sustainable Development Goals.

In the session, a panel of distinguished guests was asked to comment on the British Council’s new TNE strategy, and to outline the relevant educational developments in their country that presented challenges and opportunities. Christopher Maiyaki, Acting Executive Secretary for the National Universities Commission in Nigeria expressed how ‘in Nigeria, the advent of TNE summarises game-changing opportunities, the dawn of a new era where we hope we will continue to give the full meaning and purpose of the university enterprise.’

During the panel, Professor Mary Stiasny OBE, Pro Vice-Chancellor International, Teaching and Learning, at the University of London, explained how TNE was helping to continue a very long tradition of widening access to HE at her institution. But she urged that there must be no compromise on quality, as this was “the vital component to drive equity and sustainability through scale”. Dr Son Hoang Minh, Vice-Minister, Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam, outlined plans for a digital HE system that will allow students to take courses from universities in different parts of the world.

Dr Mohamed Ayman Ashour, Minister of Higher Education in Egypt, explained how TNE applied to a new HE strategy launched in his country, at both a national and regional level. Professor Nizam, Acting Director General of Higher Education, Research and Technology in Indonesia, spoke of a “big bang transformation” designed to open up new opportunities for students through “flexible and meaningful learning”. Christopher Maiyaki, Acting Executive Secretary for the National Universities Commission in Nigeria, said TNE had potential to help bridge the huge gap between supply and demand for HE in his country, but it needed political will behind it and a willingness to evaluate its effectiveness.

Scotland's commitment to Higher Education

At the welcome reception, delegates heard Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal of Dundee University, and Convener of Universities Scotland, and Professor Andrea Nolan, Principal of Edinburgh Napier University, and Convener of Universities Scotland International Committee, underline Scottish higher education’s commitment and contribution to the development of global HE partnerships, with over 82,000 international students coming from over 180 countries to study in Scotland. Graeme, Dey, the Scottish further and higher education minister, said a new Scottish international education strategy will be published “in the coming weeks” that will recognise the growing importance of TNE and will include a talent attraction and migration service that will provide information and advice for students considering staying in Scotland post-qualifying.