What does an expanding field of transnational education options mean for traditional recruitment models?

The evolution of the transnational education model (TNE) increasingly factors as yet another dimension of a richly varied and competitive international education marketplace.

Not so long ago, transnational education mostly entailed an institution’s operating a branch campus in another country. Students in this other country were attracted by the name and prestige of the institutional brand (such as the high-profile New York University campus in Abu Dhabi or the Yale-NUS campus in Singapore) and the opportunities it created for further foreign education or employment.

The branch campus model is still going strong, but it is one of only several modes of transnational education models today; other models include overseas twinning programmes, online courses, and dual or joint degrees. These other options offer great convenience, affordability, and flexibility for students and are thus gaining in popularity. They promise to be a major factor affecting student mobility patterns, and for anyone involved in student recruitment activities, they bear thinking about.

The British Council’s Education Intelligence Unit’s just-released Portrait of a Transnational Education Student contains fascinating information on the maturity of transnational education and what students are looking for in foreign-branded degrees and courses. The report is based on more than 160,000 responses from secondary-school graduates to employed professionals; data spans from 2007 until September 2012. The study sample did not include students at international branch campuses but did include overseas twinning programmes, online courses delivered transnationally, and dual or joint degrees.

Here are some of the highlights reported in University World News (the full report is available for purchase on the British Council website):

  • The practicality of being able to combine study with work trumped the reputation, brand, or ranking of the awarding institution
  • Two major reasons for a student to consider TNE are now affordability and that a course is available (and not available locally) – these were not mentioned as major reasons in 2007
  • Niche courses are very important – niche courses that fit in precisely with the student’s study and work plans
  • Despite the importance of convenience and flexibility, students also said that face-to-face time with teachers was “irreplaceable”
  • Students considered the awarding country – rather than the awarding institution – more important in opting for a TNE course
  • Interest in TNE has increased in all surveyed regions since 2007 – fully one-in-four respondents was considering TNE in some form
  • Countries where interest is highest include Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, the Philippines, Russia, and Zambia.

There will always be a segment of foreign students interested in a degree awarded by a prestigious university brand. But the expanding list of TNE options paves the way for another segment of students – a segment for whom convenience, flexibility, and affordability are just as important as educational brand, for whom the mere presence of quality, if not world-class, educational options (including online ones) is highly valuable.

This segment, or another one altogether, may be increasingly able to piece their education together themselves, course by course, even institution by institution, thanks to TNE options – without having to leave their home country.

The expansion and greater credibility (thanks to more stringent legislation) of the TNE model will affect education agents and institutions across the world. Zainab Malik, research manager for the British Council in Hong Kong, told University World News the following regarding regions of the world we should be paying particular attention to due to higher-than-average interest in TNE:

We are finding that the TNE market is following the student recruitment market, moving further South [globally] and towards the East. In particular in South East Asia and South Asia due to capacity issues, as well as because of government support, students are turning to TNE. But we see interest in all regions, including Africa.

Sources: British Council, University World News



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