Ex­pan­sion of UK transna­tional ed­u­ca­tion pro­vi­sion tails off

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - So­phie.inge@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Ex­pan­sion of UK uni­ver­si­ties’ transna­tional ed­u­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties has dwin­dled dra­mat­i­cally af­ter years of strong growth.

Al­though the num­ber of those study­ing for UK awards over­seas in 2016-17 was a new record high, 707,915, this was up by just 1 per cent on 2015-16, ac­cord­ing to a Uni­ver­si­ties UK In­ter­na­tional re­port, The Scale of UK Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Transna­tional Ed­u­ca­tion.

This com­pares with a 5.3 per cent in­crease from 2014-15 to 2015-16, and rises of 4.3 per cent and 6.7 per cent in the pre­ced­ing years, says the re­port, which is based on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Statis­tics Agency records.

In 2015-16, 44 per cent of UK transna­tional ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents were learn­ing via pro­vi­sion de­liv­ered col­lab­o­ra­tively over­seas. A quar­ter (25 per cent) were study­ing via an in­ter­na­tional part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tion, with one in five (20 per cent) fol­low­ing dis­tance or flex­i­ble learn­ing cour­ses. In­ter­na­tional branch cam­puses ac­counted for just 8 per cent of pro­vi­sion.

Rae­gan Hiles, head of out­bound mo­bil­i­ties pro­grammes at UUKI,

said that it was not pos­si­ble to ex­plain the ap­par­ent slow­down in growth be­cause break­downs by re­gion or in­sti­tu­tion were not yet avail­able for the 2016-17 data.

The shift in the man­age­ment of transna­tional pro­grammes to over­seas part­ners might mean that some ac­tiv­i­ties no longer show in the data, or it might be that large providers have sta­bilised their num­bers and that growth is now be­ing driven by smaller providers.

Janet Ilieva, founder and di­rec­tor of re­search com­pany Ed­u­ca­tion In­sight, said that the ap­par­ent slack­en­ing of growth of transna­tional ed­u­ca­tion (TNE) was not sur­pris­ing.

“TNE has emerged to sup­port lo­cal higher ed­u­ca­tion agen­das, and as such it has ab­sorbed un­met lo­cal de­mand for HE,” she said. “As coun­tries’ HE sys­tems are ma­tur­ing and their par­tic­i­pa­tion rates are near­ing 40 per cent, lo­cal HE growth and TNE growth are bound to de­cel­er­ate.”

Dr Ilieva added that there was anec­do­tal ev­i­dence to sug­gest sig­nif­i­cant con­sol­i­da­tion of UK uni­ver­si­ties’ over­seas pro­vi­sion.

“I have the feel­ing that many in­sti­tu­tions are slow­ing down or with­draw­ing from so-called ‘light­touch TNE’ – or fran­chis­ing and val­i­da­tion agree­ments,” she said.

By con­trast, she con­tin­ued, the growth ap­pears to be con­cen­trat­ing in joint de­grees that re­quire heav­ier in­volve­ment on be­half of the two in­sti­tu­tions.

Data col­lected from 2015-16 and in­cluded in the re­port showed that more than four-fifths (82 per cent) of UK uni­ver­si­ties of­fered some form of transna­tional pro­vi­sion that year, with Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore main­tain­ing their po­si­tion as the top part­ner coun­tries.

Asia as a whole hosted more than half of UK transna­tional ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents (52 per cent). This was fol­lowed by Africa (15 per cent), the Euro­pean Union (13 per cent), the Mid­dle East (11 per cent), North Amer­ica (5 per cent), non-eu Euro­pean coun­tries (3 per cent), Aus­trala­sia (1 per cent) and South Amer­ica (less than 1 per cent).

Slow­down “as coun­tries’ HE sys­tems are ma­tur­ing and their par­tic­i­pa­tion rates are near­ing 40 per cent, lo­cal HE growth and TNE growth are bound to de­cel­er­ate”

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