New research: transnational education continuing to expand

Tuesday 03 September 2013

The British Council has launched unique research into the global growth of transnational education (TNE), and announced a new partnership with the Quality Assurance Agency to further protect and enhance the reputation of courses offered under the UK banner.

Already there are more international students taking UK qualifications abroad than in the UK – 571,000 overseas compared with around 488,000 international students in this country, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The British Council report – “The shape of things to come - The evolution of transnational education: data, definitions, opportunities and impacts analysis” – identifies the “hotspot” countries offering the most favourable environments for development of TNE partnerships. 

David Willetts, Universities Minister, said: "This research highlights once again the huge potential for growth offered by transnational education and the opportunities this presents the UK. The UK's universities, colleges, awarding organisations and schools are already recognised globally for their excellence. We are determined to help them seize these growing international opportunities, which is why we recently launched the International Education strategy. This included prioritising action to ensure quality in transnational education."

The British Council have created a unique ‘opportunities matrix’ which assesses the factors that are most conducive to the success of such transnational initiatives as international branch campuses, franchise/twinning programmes and joint delivery of qualifications.

An exhaustive analysis of available global data suggests that TNE is continuing to expand at a brisk pace; both in terms of scale – programme and student enrolment – and scope – diversity of delivery modes and location of delivery. 25 of the most significant countries for TNE were selected for the study. However the report finds that a third of these have little or no quality assurance systems in place, and that for many countries in the study, TNE is simply not a policy priority. 

The research also finds that the level of TNE activity is not always indicative of quality assurance systems being in place. The evidence suggests a complex push-and-pull relationship between TNE activity and TNE regulations, where TNE activity reaches a certain critical mass and elicits a regulatory response from the government. While TNE regulations are not a requirement for TNE activity to take place, they have an important role to play in relation to registration, licensing, accreditation, quality assurance and recognition of qualifications and for ensuring the sustainability of TNE going forward. 

In response to these concerns, a new partnership to safeguard and promote the reputation of UK higher education abroad has been agreed.

Dr Jo Beall, the British Council’s Director of Education and Society, said “Transnational education is a huge opportunity for the UK’s education sector to expand and strengthen our excellent reputation overseas. However, our research shows it’s a complex and fast changing environment, and therefore it’s even more important that the UK is able to use its world-recognised quality assurance processes to set international standards. I’m very pleased therefore that we’re partnering with the QAA, this can only enhance the UK’s ability to succeed in new markets”.

The British Council and the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency, the body that safeguards standards in Britain’s universities, are to work together to further protect and enhance the reputation of courses offered under the UK banner.

They have signed a memorandum of understanding that lays out ways in which they will co-operate to share evidence and market intelligence on the global reputation and standards of UK courses and qualifications offered abroad through TNE.

Anthony McClaran, Chief Executive of QAA, said: “QAA and the British Council have long worked closely together in many parts of the world; rigorous quality assurance is a key support for UK higher education’s international reputation. I’m very pleased that we will in future be formally co-operating to share information and intelligence to support the UK TNE effort and to safeguard the interests of students wherever they study for a UK higher education qualification.”

The two world-renowned organisations will seek to protect and enhance the reputation of British higher education as the range of courses offered abroad by UK institutions is set to expand under the Government’s International Education strategy. A new International Education Council has been formed to champion the strategy which includes an “Education is GREAT Britain” campaign.

Notes to Editor

The research is available to download through Wetransfer for a limited time.

• Institution leaders, TNE experts and others involved in the internationalisation of higher education are invited to join the British Council to explore and debate the research and what we can learn from it. The Rt Hon David Willetts, Minister of State for Universities and Science, will open the event from 18.00 to 20.30 on Thursday 5 September at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH.

• For more information about the event, to watch it take place live, or watch a recording after the event, please visit the Internationalising Higher Education website.

• The UK Government’s International Education Strategy is available on the link provided.

• The memorandum of understanding between the British Council’s Education and Society Strategic Business Unit and the QAA establishes a strategic partnership to enhance the profile of UK higher education internationally and to identify opportunities for mutual co-operation in providing services to international clients. Both bodies agree to communicate openly about any major concerns, issues or opportunities and to share information and experience where possible.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. 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 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year teaching English, sharing the Arts and in education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A publically-funded grant-in-aid provides less than a quarter of our turnover which last year was £781m. The rest we earn from English teaching, UK exams and services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with other institutions, brands and companies. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and creates prosperity and security for the UK and the countries we work in all around the world.

For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org. You can also keep in touch with the British Council through http://twitter.com/britishcouncil and http://blog.britishcouncil.org

About the Quality Assurance Agency:

QAA safeguards the public interest in the quality and standards of UK higher education. They check how UK universities and colleges maintain their academic standards and quality. They review and report on how they meet their responsibilities, identify good practice and make recommendations for improvement. They publish guidelines to help UK universities and colleges develop effective systems to ensure students have the best learning experience. Further information is available at: www.qaa.ac.uk.