The British Council's Michael Peak makes some educated predictions about where UK universities could be establishing more 'transnational education' partnerships.
Transnational education (TNE) seems to have expanded in scale and scope in recent years: the number of students seeking UK qualifications outside of the UK is rising, as is the number of UK universities engaging in TNE.
TNE can have many positive effects, such as raising the international profile of the participating institutions, and acting as a conduit for international students to come to the UK, to name a few.
There is a clear lack of internationally comparable data
Despite hundreds of institutions from scores of countries actively involved in TNE, the number of countries with systems in place to capture and report TNE enrolments is minimal. This can make it challenging to truly assess the impact of TNE in different host countries.
There are, however, initiatives that should make this kind of data available. The British Council and DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service) produced a study to identify gaps in TNE data collection and are convening an international working group to develop guidelines for national governments to improve host country data collection. The British Council and International Unit have also initiated a study to better understand the detail of UK TNE programmes.
Some predictions are still possible
However, it is possible to look at certain indicators to get a good idea of where demand for tertiary education is likely to grow over the coming decade. Broadly speaking, in countries where more and more young people are growing up in increasingly affluent surroundings, there is greater demand for tertiary education.
In terms of absolute size, India will have the largest demand for tertiary education in 2025, and, despite the current economic challenges and ageing population, demand for tertiary education in China is still expected to grow. Demand for university places from students in Nigeria is expected to double, and Turkey and Mexico will show strong growth.
But it's not enough just to look at the demand – it's also important to consider the supply: the factors in a country or region that can make such partnerships easier or more difficult.
For example, among the countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore and Malaysia are already well-established, mature TNE environments. Vietnam hosts many TNE operations, and demand for tertiary education is expected to continue to increase there. Thailand is developing a TNE strategy. Finally, Indonesia will need around four million additional university places over the next ten years.
The Philippines is set to offer many more opportunities for transnational education
To answer the question about where the next transnational education hub could be, I would suggest a country that appears to have many of the necessary ingredients for TNE opportunities. A growing youth population, a growing economy, a growing demand for higher education enrolment, widespread use of English, and crucially a comprehensive TNE strategy – the Philippines has all of these.
However, as more institutions from more countries become involved in TNE, and students (and employers) throughout the world come to expect an international component in their university course, maybe the real answer to the question about the future of TNE is that TNE has to be embedded in the strategy and vision of all universities. Perhaps in, say, 20 years’ time, the term TNE will be a distant memory, as all higher education courses will incorporate a significant element of collaboration with international partners.
Michael Peak presented on this topic at a Universities UK conference on transnational education on 7 October 2015 [link expired].
Read our report on the higher education sector in the Philippines.
HEGlobal is commissioning a report on the scale and scope of UK transnational education, with support from the British Council, International Unit, and the UK's Derpartment for Business, Innovation and Skills. Submit your proposal by 19 October 2015 [link expired].