Transnational education refers to situations where students stay in their home country but study degrees from abroad.
The UNESCO/Council of Europe Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education (Riga, 6 June 2001) defines it as “all types of higher education study programmes, or sets of courses of study, or educational services (including those of distance education) in which the learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based”.
TNE embraces both virtual and physical forms of cross-border education and distinct from the standard forms of international student mobility where a student from country A goes to study in country B in order to undertake a degree or course of study.
These students traditionally would have travelled overseas to study for an international qualification but are now pursuing foreign degrees in their home, or neighbouring, countries at local institutions through an array of collaborative arrangements with degree-awarding institutions from major education-exporting countries.
The focus of TNE is on educational service arrangements or courses of study, in which learners are located in a country different from the one where the awarding institution is based.
The aim is to enable students to study for the degree of a foreign university without being taught on the home campus of that university.
Even though reliable data on the scale of TNE market are difficult to compile, research from the United Kingdom and Australia-the biggest innovators in the field-suggests that TNE is continuing to expand at a brisk pace; both in terms of scale (programmes and student enrolment) and scope (diversity of delivery modes and location of delivery).
There are multiple stakeholders involved in this kind of enterprise, each having different expectations, perceptions, and motivations.
The United Kingdom and Australia are regarded as the world leaders in TNE. According to recent data released by Britain’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the number of students studying ‘wholly overseas’ for a UK higher education qualification increased by more than 95,000 in 2011 to 503,795 – 75,000 more than the number of international students that were enrolled at institutions in the UK (428,225) and approximately one-sixth of all students studying for UK awards.
Also, a 2013 Report by the British Council titled “The shape of things to come: The evolution of transnationaleducation: data, definitions,opportunities and impacts analysis” indicates that in 2011-12, UK universities had set up 1,395 TNE programmes abroad in addition to 73 overseas campuses.
According to the Report, in the same academic year Australia had set up 394 TNE programmes, while in 2012, German institutions were involved in some 200 double degrees with universities abroad.
Countries such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates are judged to be destinations and suitable for new TNE while others (e.g., Nepal, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Nigeria, etc.) are viewed least favourably.
Over the years, different models of TNE have emerged. One such popular model is articulation. Under this model, the awarding institution reviews the provision of another institution and certify the adequacy of the curriculum in terms of standards for the award of specific credit leading to direct entry at certain levels (usually year two, three or four) of the specified programme at the awarding institution. Arrangements such as 2+2, 3+1, and 2+1 have occurred.
The validated franchised model (popularised by UK universities) and one of the most widely used models is where an awarding institution authorises another institution to deliver part or all of its approved programmes with the degree issued by the awarding institution, so long as the quality of the degree is tested by the awarding institution.
Often, the awarding institution retains direct responsibility for the programme content, assessment methods and teaching, and quality assurance.
Branch campus is the situation where a foreign degree-granting institution establishes a campus in the country where the students are studying.
Joint degree is an arrangement where a programme, is taught collaboratively by two or more universities with periods of study at each location.
Dual Degree – As above, but with the award of two or more certificates and transcripts. Each institution has responsibility for its own degree.
The flying-faculty model is an arrangement where the awarding (foreign) institution has either a direct or indirect presence in the country where the students are recruited.
Distance and online education (sometimes called Flexible and Distributed Learning) is where the awarding institution delivers courses through independent-learning materials or via distance technology (online) or virtual learning platforms – directly to the student without the need for a partnering institution.
Progression Agreement or Sequential Degrees is where students studying at named partners are entitled to enroll in and complete a second, related programme at the second partner institution once they have earned a specified first degree and met the admission requirements.
Degree Validation is where the partner delivers its own programmes to its own students at its own centres; however, the awarding institution validates the programmes because the partner either lacks degree-awarding powers or the power to make awards at a particular level or in a given disciplinary area.
Students receive an award certificate with the awarding institution logo alongside the partner’s name, and in some cases, logo/crest.
The TNE landscape is still emerging and projected to grow over the next conceivable years.
We know some models have been more successful than others, but all have contributed to the rich fabric of international higher education and in most cases benefitted their stakeholders either directly or indirectly.
Dr. Osei K. Darkwa