The positive impact of transnational education

Tuesday 14 May 2013

New pilot study finds host nations, institutions and students benefit from links with foreign universities and colleges.

Transnational education is having a broadly positive impact on students and institutions in host countries, according to new a new pilot study from the British Council.

TNE programmes, in which students study for a qualification from another country, are generally meeting the skill gaps of countries that engage in collaboration with foreign universities and are helping to broaden the range and quality of courses for students.

The study, conducted on behalf of the British Council by Jane Knight Adjunct professor at the University of Toronto and John McNamera (McNamara Economic research), is the first attempt to look at the social, economic and academic impact of TNE focussing on 10 host countries, including China, Malaysia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

In a unique survey of TNE students and graduates in 10 countries the study found respondents generally satisfied with their courses. Most had selected them mainly for skills development and career advancement and were studying part-time. Skills such as communication and analytical thinking appeared to be enhanced by TNE and there was some evidence of employers favouring TNE graduates for promotion.

The research looked at key impact areas: economic, academic, cultural as well as skills development. The research suggests that host colleges and universities benefit mostly through “capacity building” – the addition of new and higher quality courses that are attractive to students. Quality assurance processes, different teaching methods, programme management and distance education introduced by TNE partners are all having a positive impact.

Students themselves say they welcome the opportunity to improve their English while studying in their home countries.

The preliminary findings from the research project on the impact of TNE on host countries will be presented at the Higher Education Summit in the Year of the UK’s G8 Presidency hosted by the British Council.

The Summit will take place on 14-15 May 2013 at the British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH. It will bring together 29 high level delegates from 15 countries to examine and debate the local impact of TNE on economies, job creation and skills development.

The number and types of TNE programs have increased substantially over the last decade and include universities setting up branch campus abroad, joint and double degree programmes and courses delivered under licence.

The impact study - which follows the British Council’s extensive Shape of Things to Come 2 report on the future of TNE, first launched at the British Council’s Going Global conference held in Dubai, UAE, this March - found little evidence of the erosion of national identity or of conflict with local institutions and communities.

But the authors note an “unsettling” lack of policies and strategies in host countries to support the growth of TNE and its contribution to their national priorities. They stress the importance of adequate policies, structures and data collection to allow all stakeholders to benefit.

Kevin Van-Cauter, Higher Education Adviser at the British Council, said the research was a crucial first step in gauging the impact of TNE on host nations, institutions and students.

“We have gone some way to show the overall positive bearing that overseas delivery of higher education programmes can have. Although large data gaps continue to exist, we have shown it is possible to start filling them in order to learn more about this growing area. It is time for the various stakeholders to work together to improve the evidence base,” he said.

Notes to Editor

For more information and interview opportunities, please contact Tim Sowula, Snr Press Officer, British Council on +44 (207) 389 4871 or +44 7771 718 135, or tim.sowula@britishcouncil.org

About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

We work in more than 100 countries, and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of £739 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%.  We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.

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